Mobile chatter taking toll on terrorists

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Key TTP commander killed, two Mangal Bagh aides rounded up based on intelligence acquired by intercepting mobile phone calls

Technical spying, a safer and cheaper alternative to human spies, being used in over 90pc counter-terrorism offensives 

Over 90 per cent of the recent operations conducted by the Pakistan Army and Air Force against Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its affiliate terror outfits in tribal agencies are technical-intelligence driven, Pakistan Today has learnt.

“Human intelligence has been taken over by technical intelligence mostly acquired through mobile phone interception and the same is happening in Pakistan now,” said a senior security official.

“The operations conducted against TTP commander Mustafa alias Mannan in Peshawar and the arrest of two aides of Mangal Bagh in Abbottabad were based on intelligence acquired through mobile phone interception,” the source added.

On Friday, security forces killed five militants including Mustafa, the brother of Usman Naray who masterminded the attack on Army Public School and College Peshawar, during an encounter in Koi Hassan Khel area of Peshawar Frontier Region. Mustafa was the chief of TTP Darra Adamkhel region.

Moreover, the security forces also rounded up two commanders of Mangal Bagh’s Lashkar-e-Islam terror outfit from Abbottabad.

With the residents of North Waziristan Agency (NWA) evacuating their houses and army taking on the terrorists directly, human intelligence has become a very ‎risky business which is why the security forces have resorted to technical intelligence.

“Though we have ground sources which provide information about the whereabouts and movement of the militants yet the major sources of credible information are tracking and scanning mobile phone communication,” the source said.

Locals present in NWA, Tirah, Shawal, Khyber and Orakzai agencies are still coordinating with security forces by providing valuable information to the armed forces, said the source.

“However, human intelligence constitutes only 10 to 20 per cent of the total intelligence activities while the major sources of information are mobile phone intercepts. The threat alerts you get on daily basis are mostly based on mobile phone intercepts and this information needs to be verified by ground sources,” he said.

The source said that whenever a drone strikes in areas controlled by militants, mobile phone intercepts are the main source of confirmation of killings as the militants communicated with each other and were easily tracked down.

However, the information gathered through human sources and technological activities together make a success story, the source opined.

When contacted, defence analyst Brigadier (r) Asad Munir said that in the post 9/11 scenario, mobile phone scanning and other technical gadgets had replaced foot soldiers.

“Though human intelligence is still valid in the changing times but technical intelligence is cheaper and easier,” he said, adding that the information acquired through modern gadgets was relatively more credible and accurate. Besides, the risks involved in technical intelligence are minimal, he added.

Even the US operation against Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden made a breakthrough with the tracking of a phone call of a courier of Bin Laden, said Munir.

However, human intelligence was still valid despite the changing times, maintained Munir.

He said that the ongoing military operation in the country has compelled the militants to use mobile phones to communicate with their comrades. Though the terrorists are adept at using the most modern gadgets, it has also made easier the monitoring and tracking of militants through mobile phone interception, said the analyst.

“Technology is helping ‎the army to track the dens of terrorists and hunt them down,” said Munir.

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