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SOURCE: PTI

For the last few years, terrorists have been found using the American-made M4 carbine assault rifles in Jammu and Kashmir, and more so during the recent attacks including in Kathua, a trend that experts say is “alarming”as the “leftover” weapons of the US Army after its pullout from Afghanistan in 2021 seem to have reached the ultras through Pakistani handlers.

M4 carbine is a lightweight, gas-operated, air-cooled, magazine-fed and shoulder-fired weapon with a collapsible stock in service since 1994. With over 500,000 units produced since the 1980s, the M4 is available in several variants. It is claimed that the rifle has a cyclic rate of fire of 700-970 rounds per minute and an effective firing range of 500-600 meters.

M4 carbine rifles were designed and developed in the 1980s and used extensively by NATO, including a variant reportedly in service with several militaries including Pakistani special forces and the Special Security Unit of the Sindh Police.

Offering greater manoeuvrability, the rifle has been used in several wars including the Syrian civil war, Iraqi civil war, Yemeni civil war, Colombian conflict, Kosovo war, Iraq and Afghanistan war after 9/11.

The frequent use of these assault rifles by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir, according to experts, is a consequence of the US Army leaving behind arms and ammunition while pulling out from Afghanistan in 2021 and is a cause of concern due to the more lethal nature of the steel bullets used.

“After the withdrawal of Americans from Afghanistan, they have left a huge stock of arms and ammunition. Though the Americans claim that they destroyed most of it. But I think with canonisation and things of that kind, these weapons have fallen into the hands of the terrorists,” defence expert Lt Gen Sanjay Kulkarni said.

Experts say that it is Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence that has been helping terrorists with sophisticated weapons like M4 carbine rifles to further their “nefarious designs” in Jammu and Kashmir.

Kulkarni, who has served in Jammu and Kashmir during his tenure in the Indian Army, believes that the US Army’s leftover weapons have been now found by the ISI, which is using them to train terrorists.

He said that M4 rifles have steel bullets that have definite penetration and are generally not utilised because they come under various kinds of restrictions.

“But you find that the Americans have left such huge piles of ammunition (in Afghanistan), which are far more sophisticated,” Kulkarni said.

The first instance of recovery of the M4 carbine rifle in Jammu and Kashmir was reported on 7th November 2017, when a nephew of Jaish e Muhammad chief Masood Azhar, Talha Rasheed Masood, was killed in a gunfight in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

In 2018, the weapon was recovered by security forces in Kashmir’s Pulwama for the second time when Azhar’s another nephew Usman Ibrahim was killed.

Later on July 11, 2022, one M4 carbine rifle was recovered from an encounter site in the Awantipora area of Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district where Jaish-e-Muhammad commander Kaiser Koka and one another terrorist were neutralized.

Shesh Paul Vaid, former Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police, said there was no frequent use of M4 carbine rifles by terrorists in the region during his tenure – December 2016 to September 2018.

“Let me first make it very clear that during my tenure as DGP, I have not come across the use of M4 rifles. They have largely come to notice, being used here in Kashmir, after America left its arms in Afghanistan,” Vaid said.

Recently, the M4 carbine was reportedly used in all the major attacks in the Jammu region including the Kathua attack on July 8 in which five soldiers were ambushed to death.

On June 9, the weapon was reportedly used in the Reasi attack when terrorists attacked a tourist bus leaving nine people dead and 41 injured.

Two weeks later, on June 26, an M4 rifle besides a huge cache of arms and ammunition was recovered from the terrorist killed in a gunfight in Jammu and Kashmir’s Doda district.

Last December, terrorist outfit People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF) which claimed responsibility for the Poonch terror attack in which four soldiers were killed, showed the sophisticated US-made M4 carbine assault rifles on social media.

Vaid, while admitting that M4-like sophisticated weapons increase the probability of casualties, hopes that security forces will effectively deal with the challenge.

“I think it makes people even in bulletproof vehicles vulnerable. That is the danger,” said Vaid.

“The security forces and J-K Police have been facing this for many many years and we will face this even in times to come,” he said.

He expressed the hope that the forces will be able to take measures on “how to face such a situation where your enemy is equipped with such sophisticated weapons”.