Gone are the days of satellite phones, now militants carry smartphones

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It was the technologically advanced gear that caught the attention of the security forces, when Pakistani militant Sajjad Ahmad was captured, in August 

He didn’t have the usual satellite phones and radio communication devices with him, but was loaded with smartphones with softwares that made the user difficult to track.

Ahmad represents the sophisticated militant that the Indian Army is presently battling in Jammu and Kashmir. Such operatives, trained by Pakistan, are now using technologically advanced, and self-destructing softwares, encrypted messaging, and video calling applications.

The army has lost two lives in northern Kashmir recently, incidents that can be attributed to the quality night vision devices acquired by militants. When insurgency was at a nascent stage, radio was the means of communication amongst militants. Satellite phones came into the picture much later.

But now militant groups are equipping their cadres with smartphones, that have tailor-made applications, and are run on both Indian, and Pakistani mobile networks.

“There has been a shift from satphones to smartphones,” said a senior security officer. With mobile towers mushrooming across the Valley and mobile networks reaching the interior areas of Kashmir, terrorists are increasingly using smartphones, he said.

The smartphones used by militants are fitted with softwares named after mobile apps such as WhatsApp, Viber and Skype. These have been programmed to serve only internal communication. “All these applications are voice over internet protocol and the encryption (encoding) is end-to-end, meaning one cannot intercept a message midway,” said the officer.

Counter-insurgency expert at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Colonel Vivek Chadha (retired), said, “There is a state apparatus behind them which ensures they are technologically advanced than the army.”

A senior officer said, the methods being adopted by the terrorists are closely monitored. The technologically advanced software carried by the militants adds more to army’s problems in J&K.

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