India’s sniffer dog squad thwarted 16 terror attack plots including International Yoga Day, Republic Day and Art of Living event

New Delhi, July 27: The canny canines from India’s dog squads have foiled at least 16 terrorist strikes in the last two years – and the would-be attackers are so unnerved that they are planning to hit dog training centres.

The threat emerged in a secret report based on recent terror intercepts.

Encrypted messages decoded by intelligence agencies have identified several high-profile events where specific instructions for attacks – like the time and date – were given, but the presence of the animals proved to be a deterrent, reports

The International Yoga Days in 2015 and 2016, last year’s Independence Day, the Africa Summit, and US President Barack Obama’s Republic Day visit were all on the list. Likewise, the Art of Living event on the banks of the Yamuna in Delhi this March, and various Parliament sessions also featured.

But the attacks were prevented as terror groups panicked after seeing a heavy deployment of dogs.

“Now the latest message from the foreign terror outfits is to incapacitate the training centres that train these force multiplier dogs,” the report says.

The crack K9 unit of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) was part of several operations launched to foil terror bids that were planned to inflict maximum damage during these events.

Ahead of the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament, the Ministry of Home Affairs approved heavy deployment of the ITBP’s sniffer dogs to keep the complex safe. The activity was named “Operation Golden Nose”.

The 2001 suicide attack on Parliament that killed nine people led to the strengthening of security at the premises.

In light of the high threat perception, the dog squads have introduced new training modules. The ITBP is one of the main forces that prepares dogs for internal security duty, and its crack K9 units have evolved over the years.

“There has been a change in role. From a top secret seldom-known wing mainly involved in securing assets and sensitive border management, the K9 unit is now an indispensible cutting-edge tool to secure the common citizens of Delhi during public functions, held under very high terror threat,” said an officer in charge of dog training in the force, reports

“The training methods are such that even if someone has touched explosives, the dogs can detect it.”

The training methods and modules are designed to keep pace with the changing dynamics of security. As well as sniffing, the dogs are also being trained for assault and reconnaissance patrols.

The canines are enrolled in a gruelling 24-week training programme when they are four months old, and by the time they complete the training the animals can get the whiff of even a miniscule amount of explosive.

With the mounting threat perception, even Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s security has got more canine power as the elite Special Protection Group (SPG) has decided to double the size of its dog squad. The ITBP has been asked to train two batches a year exclusively for the PM’s security.

“By the end of this year the strength is likely to be doubled as the SPG needs more dogs for the PM’s security in the wake of the heightened threat perception,” said an official.

It’s not just the high-profile events in the Capital but also the fight against Maoists where dogs have proven their mettle regularly, playing a pivotal role in seizure of explosives and also saving several lives by sensing an ambush.

Dogs along with their handlers played a stellar role at the operation in Pathankot airbase this year when Pakistani terrorists launched a deadly strike. Three-year-old Rocket, who was part of the counter-terror strategy, has even been recommended for a gallantry award.