On 15 December last year, Mahbubullah Mohibi, the deputy governor of Afghanistan’s Kabul province, left his home in an armoured SUV, bound for his office. As he passed through the narrow lanes of Kabul’s Macroyan, a neighborhood built by the Soviets a half-century ago for the pro-Soviet Afghan elites, the car was rocked by an explosion. Mohibi and his secretary were killed.
A few hours later, Abdul Rahman Atshan, a high-ranking official in central Afghanistan’s Ghor Province, was killed in an explosion while in his car.
These explosions had been carried out using magnetic bombs, also called sticky bombs, made using plastic high explosives and powerful magnets.
In recent weeks, at least ten government officials and their aides in the country have been killed by the Taliban using ‘sticky bombs’.
Terrorists, riding a motorbike or walking along a road among pedestrians, can easily put a ‘sticky bomb’ on a target vehicle using a magnet attached to it without attracting much attention, and detonate it remotely with radio signals or time-delay fuse. These bombs are powerful enough to blow up a car.
This cheap, precise and lethal weapon, which has been used in Afghanistan by the Taliban and other terror groups since around 2005 and is wrecking havoc in the country, has reached the Kashmir Valley.
Last month, security agencies in the Union Territory had seized at least 15 ‘sticky bombs’, all of which had reached the Kashmir Valley through drones and tunnels from across the Line of Control, and were most likely meant for The Resistance Force, an outfit of linked to Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba.
In February 2019, a suicide bomber drove a car laden with explosives into a military convoy in Pulwama district, killing 40 soldiers.
A 'sticky bomb’ is less lethal than a car laden with explosives, like the one used in Pulwama, but has become a weapon of choice for terror outfits as it is easy to use and move, and requires relatively lesser resources to make.
While using 'sticky bombs’ in Kashmir may not be as easy as in Afghanistan, this weapon presents a credible threat to security agencies in the Valley.
In Kashmir, military convoys are regularly targeted with grenades, shootings and stones. When deployed to neutralise terrorists, troops have to drive into thickly populated areas, where their vehicles are often surrounded by crowds in support of terrorists and pelted with stones.
Protesters surround military vehicles, climb on their roofs and hit them with stones. Terrorists and their sympathisers can easily take advantage of the chaos to place a magnet bomb on a military vehicle.
This is just one scenario in which a ‘sticky bomb’ can be used against security forces in the Kashmir Valley; there are many more, experts say.
“These are small IEDs [ improvised explosive devices] and quite powerful,” said Vijay Kumar, Inspector-General of Police in Kashmir.
“It will certainly impact security as volume and frequency of vehicular movements of police and security forces is high in Kashmir valley,” he added.
Security forces in Kashmir are responding to the threat by changing the standard operating procedures for the movement of their convoys in the Valley.
In 2012, security agencies, including the National Security Guards or NSG, were forced to go into a huddle after the use of a sticky bomb in the 13 February attack outside the Israeli embassy that year.
A terrorist riding on a bike had managed to stick a palm-sized ‘sticky bomb’ on a car used by an Israeli diplomat outside the embassy in one of the safest zones in the country, not far from the Prime Minister's residence.
Called “obwah lasica” in Arabic, ‘sticky bombs’ have also seen widespread use in the conflict in Iraq since 2004. At one point in 2008, there were five explosions of ‘sticky bombs’ in the country every week.
Sticky or magnetic bombs are not a new innovation — far from it. Limpet mines, which are naval mines attached to a target by magnets, were used to sabotage merchant ships during World War II — famously used by British commandos to sabotage merchant ships in Nazi-occupied Bordeaux in 1942.
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