In a change of tact, terrorist organisations are now resorting to the use of pistols for targeted killings in the Kashmir Valley. Dropped near the international border via drones, these pistols are the newest challenge for security forces in the Kashmir Valley ahead of the busy tourist season and amid the Amarnath Yatra.

Based on inputs, the Srinagar Police on Monday arrested two hybrid terrorists from The Resistance Front (TRF), an offshoot of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET) in the Chanapora area of Srinagar. Top police sources said that the arrested duo had received the weapons consignment and were slated to pass on the weapons to people in Srinagar who were planning to carry out a slew of targeted killings. As many as 15 pistols were seized from them.

The recovered weapons are the US-made Stoeger STR-9S combat pistol. These were dropped along the border via drones from across the border,” said a senior police officer. The US-made weapons were new and unused.

“There is no doubt they are being delivered for targeted killings,” the officer said. “In January this year, two consignments with silencers were seized.

On Monday night, a cordon-and-search operation was launched around a house outside which a Haryana-registered car was parked.

The Srinagar Police found the weapons in a gunny bag kept in the car. The police believe that the weapons had been dropped via drones in Jammu and Punjab, from where the consignment was delivered to the Kashmir Valley.

Sources said that the two accused — identified Sajjad Gul and Saifullah Sajid Jatt — were in touch with top commanders of the TRF.

In March this year, the NIA had announced a Rs 10-lakh reward to anyone providing information on the duo.

IGP of Kashmir Police Vijay Kumar said: “Srinagar Police arrested two local terrorists of the terror outfit LeT/TRF. Incriminating material, arms and ammunition, including 15 pistols, 30 magazines, 300 rounds and 1 silencer were recovered from them.”

Officials in the security grid believe that the recovery of over a hundred pistols in the first four months is a great worry. The latest recovery of short weapons with silencers meant for targeted assassination requires little training,” a top officer told India Today.

Sources said that the Rahul Bhat, a Kashmiri Pandit and government employee, was killed on May 12 using a similar weapon. The J&K Police had claimed that three culprits, including two Pakistanis, had been neutralised. Another top official said that till the time there is effective anti-drone action along the border, the influx of such weapons would be hard to stop.

Sources said that even though AK-47s are used by terrorists in rural areas, in Srinagar and other towns, there has been a rise in the recovery of pistols, which are easy to use and hide. The maximum number of seizures has been in Srinagar.

On January 6, neutralised a hybrid module of a TRF unit in the Bagat Barzulla area of Srinagar by arresting two terrorists and two of their associates. Two pistols along with two magazines and 30 bullets were recovered from them. The terrorists revealed their hideout in Srinagar city from where incriminating material, arms and ammunition, including two pistols, six pistol magazines, 69 rounds, and two pistol silencers were recovered.

The members of this module are said to have carried out a recce of the headquarters of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Delhi Police headquarters.

The latest arms consignment however has added to the worries of security forces. A top officer said: “These weapons can be used against tourists or Amarnath Yatris and this has been a huge concern in the wake of multiple threats by terror organizations.”