State cops not fully prepared to handle IEDs, say experts

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Four years after 26/11, experts feel preparedness of the Maharashtra police in dealing with Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) still remains questionable. The response during the JM Road blasts showed that police approach is still 'reactive' in absence of a counter-IED strategy, say police officers and counter-terror experts.

When members of Pune police's Bomb Detection and Disposal Squad (BDDS) were defusing two unexploded bombs and a detonator on J M Road on the night of August 1, only one policeman had a protective suit, which was torn and 12 years old. Others used bulletproof jackets, which hardly provide protection against bombs.

"The police had ignored the possibility of any secondary explosion and were seen handling the suspicious objects in an unscientific manner. Precious lives were at stake," says Jamal Khan, principal at the Institute of IED Management, one of the state-of-the- art anti-terrorism institutes of the Central Reserve Police Force.

A retired police officer from Maharashtra police who had been part of the anti-Naxal operations for a long time says, "After 26/11, the Maharashtra police has done a lot on the counter-terrorism front. We now have Force One, a modern and well-trained force. Unfortunately there is no specifically laid down strategy to deal with IEDs.

He added, "We have just been reactive, dealing with IEDs which have till now been used. We are far behind the enemy. Pune has also seen the arrest of alleged Naxal operatives. That means we need preparedness against organisations known for using IEDs."

Khan says, "The IEDs used in the J M Road case had a timer and was designed for maximum impact in only one direction. It means they combined two different IED types. There have been many cases in which after a small explosion there were larger explosions.Counter-terror preparedness is questionable without counter-IED preparedness. We first need to break down their IED network. It includes the financier, supplier of materials, assembler, planter and the one who triggers it. A holistic mechanism with intelligence agencies at the helm is needed to break this network. The next two steps involve actual technological preparedness and the third part is training the forces and creating awareness among citizens."

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