| Wall of fire: The burning Tourist Reception Centre in Srinagar
Srinagar, April 9: Investigations are on to establish whether an embedded mole helped the militants who attacked the passenger safe house on the eve of the launch of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service.
Intelligence officials said the fire started far too quickly, gutting a major portion of the Tourist Reception Centre building.
The fire started from the roof and rapidly spread to the ground floor. So far, government agencies have been thinking that mortar fire from the security forces could have ignited the fire. However, now 'there are some indications that the incident could have been a case of internal sabotage', a security officer said.
Chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who visited the site yesterday, said the security aspect and the 'instant gutting' called for a deeper investigation. Orders have also been issued to reconstruct the building at the earliest.
At the end of a two-hour gun-battle, police had initially claimed that they had eliminated the 'attackers'. However, only one body was found. The police later said they presume the slain militant's accomplice was also killed and his burnt remains could be found when the debris is cleared.
This is not the first time that a section of the security establishment has spoken of the possibility of sabotage. A similar possibility had reared its head when militants stormed the income-tax building in Srinagar in early January and burnt it down, destroying 80 per cent of the records.
The militants who had got hold of the confidential list of passengers had also claimed that someone in the Mufti government had leaked the names. But the government had dismissed the claim as a divisive ploy.
In the passenger shelter case, it is being suggested that the mole could either have been a sympathiser employed in the government or someone whose entry into the building was facilitated by an employee. The tourism complex has several government offices. Such facilitators are referred to as OGWs (over-ground workers) in security jargon and are counted among the most difficult segment to detect and deal with.
'Even if you know someone is an OGW, there is not a lot that you can do. There hardly ever is evidence good enough to convict anyone. Chances are you will have to release him within weeks of arrest because he can get the right people to pull strings,' a senior security officer said.
The security establishment ' though its hands have often been sullied by human rights violations ' believes that the hidden sympathisers play a key role in whipping up street protests as soon as a militant is gunned down.
Security officers said the over-ground sympathisers have a multiplier effect that makes them more dangerous than a militant. Each one of them can motivate many more to take up arms or help others fighting for the cause.
This is one of the factors that played on the security establishment's mind when it opposed the bus service. It fears that the service will eventually be used by such over-ground workers from Muzaffarabad to enter Kashmir and improve their network in the Valley.
The state government today announced that it has ordered a probe into the 'instant gutting' of the centre.