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Friday, August 14, 2015

Amid crackdown on separatists, Srinagar put under undeclared curfew

Hurriyat leaders under house arrest, over 200 detained ahead of Pak I-Day

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 13: After receiving reports that some separatist groups were planning to hoist Pakistani national flags at several places in the summer capital to celebrate Pakistan's Independence Day on Friday,  authorities here have launched a major crackdown and decided to put half of Srinagar under undeclared curfew.

Senior government officials confirmed that "restrictions"---euphemism for curfew----would remain in force on the peoples' movement in the areas under the jurisdiction of seven Police Stations within Rainawari-Safakadal-Maisuma triangle from Thursday evening to Saturday afternoon. Superintendent of Police Headquarters (Srinagar) Waseem Qadri told STATE TIMES that the District Magistrate had issued orders for "enforcement of restrictions" so as to maintain law and order.

Even as curfew and shutdown have been a permanent feature on the Indian Independence Day of August 15 since 1990, the capital will be under curfew first time in the last 23 years, on August 30. According to the reports, Pakistani flags and balloons had been put in place at some places both in downtown and some Civil Lines areas to celebrate the Pakistani Independence Day.

Sources in higher echelons of Jammu and Kashmir Police revealed to this newspaper that the authorities decided to impose curfew in downtown Srinagar immediately after receiving "credible inputs" that some secessionist groups had planned to put up pro-Pakistan demonstrations while hoisting the Pakistani flags at different places on Friday.

JKLF Chairman Yasin Malik has been already detained at a Police Station. Sources said that almost all other first rung separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, have been placed under house arrest. Police raided Dukhtaraan-e-Millat Chairperson Asiya Andrabi's residence but she had already left for an undisclosed destination.

On record, officials refused to elaborate but well-placed government sources told STATE TIMES that over 200 "suspects and potential threats" had been picked up and detained at different Police Stations in the last 24 hours. "Search is underway for over a dozen persons", said a source while confirming that almost the entire second and third rung separatist leadership was being detained.

Police and security forces have put in place extraordinary bandobust in Srinagar as well as all other districts in Kashmir valley to fail the militants' plans to disrupt the I-Day ceremonial parades and celebrations on Saturday.

10 civilians injured in Shopian blast

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 13: Ahead of the Independence Day of August 15, as many as ten civilians have sustained injuries in a mysterious low intensity blast outside a mosque in Trenz village of Shopian in South Kashmir on Thursday.

Superintendent of Police Altaf Khan told STATE TIMES that the people coming out of the mosque after performing the routine morning prayers spotted a steel tumbler upside down across on the road. As soon as someone picked up the glass, an explosive device went off causing injuries to ten persons.

The injured were immediately evacuated to the local hospital wherefrom four persons with serious injuries were referred to SMHS Hospital, Srinagar. "All the 10 persons are stable as most of them have been discharged from the hospital", SP Shopian said.

Official sources added that ballistic experts collected the samples and the same were under the process of analysis. "It appears that a low intensity explosive device had been planted with an intention to create fear but not fatal casualties", said a source. "However, around the same time, family members of the local Hizbul Mujahideen commander Waseem Ahmed Malla reported from their adjoining village of Pahlipora that a grenade-like substance had beeb laid on their verandah. Police rushed to the spot and defused the grenade", he said.

With nobody claiming responsibility, Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin in a statement blamed the Indian agencies for the twin incidents in Shopian area. He claimed that the security agencies had got "unnerved" with the increasing militant attacks and such machinations were being employed to sully the image of the militants.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Five policemen, civilian injured in Srinagar grenade attack
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 12: About a dozen Police officers had a narrow escape when suspected militants tossed a hand grenade outside a key Police establishment and left 6 persons injured on Wednesday in this capital city. 

Senior Police officials told STATE TIMES that someone from an unidentified spot lobbed a hand grenade towards a concentration of Police officers in front of the office of Superintendent of Police (North) at Khanyar at 8.35 pm. However, it fell short of the intended target and exploded on the road, causing injuries to six persons. 

Those injured in the blast included an Assistant Sub Inspector of Police, four constables of J&K Police and one constable of CRPF. Sources said that all the six were treated at the nearby Gausiya Hospital and later discharged. 

According to the official sources, the grenade attack came from a suspected militant after a meeting of Sub Divisional Police Officers (SDPOs) and Station House Officers (SHOs) of the North City circle concluded and almost all the participant officers were on the road outside the venue. According to a local news agency, militant group 'Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen' has claimed responsibility for the grenade attack. 

After a long pause of calm, suspected militants had earlier carried out a chain of five grenade attacks in the summer capital on July 24. However, only one person had got injured that day. 

Meanwhile, parts of Pulwama and Awantipore Police districts observed complete shutdown on Wednesday to protest the killing of a civilian, Bilal Ahmad Bhat, in BSF's firing on Tuesday evening. Padgampora village, close to the Indian Air Force base of Awantipora had witnessed a clash when a group of the residents resorted to anti-India slogans and stone pelting on BSF in the aftermath of an Army operation in which two local militants of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba were killed with the help of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle  (UAV).  

Separatist hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani had called for a protest shutdown in Pulwama district on Wednesday. Reports said that around 5,000 people attended the slain militants' funeral while as over 4,000 people participated in the Namaaz-e-Janazah of the civilian at Padgampora. Clashes between the residents and Police were reported from six villages. Government has ordered an inquiry into the circumstances that led to the civilian's death in the shootout. 


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Two LeT militants traced by drone, killed in Pulwama gunfight
Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 11: Two Kashmiri militants of Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, allegedly involved in over a dozen killings and attacks on security forces, were killed in Lajora area of Pulwama district in South Kashmir even as both had escaped before were traced out by Army’s drone in a thick vegetation.
Sources associated with the 18-hour-long joint operation of Rashtriya Rifles 55 Bn, Special Operations Group of Pulwama District Police and Central Reserve Police Force, told STATE TIMES that Showkat Ahmad Lone alias Ali of Lelhar and Gulzar Ahmad Bhat alias Shaheen of Talangam had opened fire on an Army contingent on Lajora - Awantipora Road, near Ratanpura on Monday evening. Troops retaliated and laid siege to the neighbourhood but both the holed up militants managed to break the cordon.
A building in which the militants had taken shelter was cleared and occupied by the troops. The militants appeared to be hiding in the adjoining agriculture fields which were quickly taken under cordon. Intermittent firing from the fields continued for the whole night.
On one point of time, it was decided to eliminate the holed up militants with high voltage electric current on the pattern of an operation in Sopore in 2013. However, the idea was shelved when some officers expressed apprehension that such an action during Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s government could activate human rights groups and the regime could take strong action for deviating from the Standard Operation Procedure (SOP).
Meanwhile, in the forenoon on Tuesday large number of the residents came out of their houses and engaged Police and security forces in pitched battles apparently in an attempt to break the down and provide a safe passage to the militants. Reports said that five persons got injured in stone pelting and tear gas shelling. However, officials maintained that only one civilian sustained injuries besides a personal security officer of SSP Pulwama Tejinder Singh. They said that the Police and security forces observed maximum possible restraint, faced the brunt of the stone pelting and did not withdraw until both the militants were killed.
Finally Army pressed into service an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle  (UAV), equipped with sophisticated surveillance system, that detected the hiding militants effectively. Subsequently, a bunker was used to take the commandos to a vantage position. They targeted and shot dead both the militants. 

Sources said that both Showkat and Gulzar had visited the LeT militant Naveed at the organisation's hideout in Khrew forest area before he came down to Kakpora and Kulgam area and finally attacked a BSF convoy near Udhampur on August 5. Naveed was captured alive, though his accomplice Noman died in the terror strike that killed 2 BSF soldiers and left 12 more of them injured.
Both Showkat and Gulzar figured in the category of the top wanted militants of South Kashmir on account of the incidents they were allegedly involved in and booked in different FIRs. 

An official spokesman later added that Showkat was also
involved in the grenade attack at Pahoo in which one CRPF man was killed and several others, including a CRPF Inspector, two civilians and a Policeman were injured. He was also responsible for an attack on Tata Sumo stand at Kakapora in which some civilians were injured. He said that Showkat was also involved in an attack at Galander, Pampore, in which two Police personnel and a civilian got killed. He was also booked for the killing of a Head Constable of Railway Police at Puchal as also in terrorising panches and sarpanches.

Gulzar had allegedly indoctrinated and recruited a big number of the local cadres for LeT. He stood booked in some FIRs for snatching away weapons from Police and paramilitary personnel. The official spokesman claimed that Gulzar was also very close to LeT's Divisional Commander Qasim, a Pakistani militant. 

Naveed shifted from Srinagar to Jammu for remand

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 10: National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is investigating the August 5 fidayeen attack on a convoy of Border Security Force (BSF) near Samroli, Udhampur, has shifted the captured Lashkar-e-Tayyiba militant Naveed from Srinagar to Jammu on Monday.

While as a suspected Pakistani militant of LeT, Noman and two BSF soldiers had died and 12 more BSF personnel sustained injuries in the suicide strike, Naveed, purportedly from Pakistan, had been captured alive.

Within hours of Naveed’s arrest and registration of FIR at Police Station of Udhampur, Government of India had assigned the high profile investigation to NIA, brushing aside mild resistance from the State political executive and DGP K rajendra Kumar. On August 6th, Ministry of Home Affairs issued an order and appointed NIA’s SSP Atul Kumar Goel as the Chief Investigating Officer.

After two days of sustained questioning at Joint Interrogation Centre at Miran Sahab, NIA shifted Naveed to Srinagar where over a dozen persons have been confronted with the detainee and held for questioning. According to official sources, On August 6th evening, a militant hideout was raided by security forces at Kakpora in Pulwama district on Naveed’s identification. LeT’s very important local militant Talib Shah died in the gunbattle, though a Pakistani commander, Dujana, who is next only to the LeT operations chief Qasim, however, escaped.

Sources said that NIA, in coordination with J&K Police was on the lookout for a businessman, whose shop is in Lalchowk, who, according to Naveed handed over Rs 5 lakh to Dujana before the militants set off for the Udhampur fidayeen attack. “Search is still underway for at least six persons who have been identified by Naved as conduits, collaborators  and functionaries of the jihadist outfit.

Sources said that NIA would produce Naveed before the Presiding Officer of its special court in Jammu for remand of custodial interrogation before formally taking around a dozen of suspects into custody.

Under an extraordinary security cover, Naveed was carried on Monday from Rajbagh Police Station to Srinagar Airport in a cavalcade of at least seven vehicles including an armoured bunker. Security forces had laid siege to a particular area on Srinagar airport wherefrom Naveed was flown to Jammu at 2.30 pm by an Air India flight.

Meanwhile, two to three militants of LeT attacked Army, travelling in two private Tata Sumos from Lajora to Awantipora air base near Ratnipora on Monday evening. Troops cordoned a particular area but all the militants are believed to have escaped.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

NIA suspects Army’s Command Hqs was target of fidayeen attack

Search on for Lalchowk shopkeeper, Pulwama's 'Mantri' who met Naveed's group before terror strike on highway

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

SRINAGAR, Aug 8: In the very preliminary phase of the high profile investigation, National Investigation Agency (NIA) is understood to have discovered how Pakistan-based jihadist outfit Lashkar-e-Tayyiba had launched a group of four meticulously indoctrinated militants for a suicide strike, most probably on Army’s Northern Command headquarters of Udhampur on Srinagar-Jammu highway.

The captured militant Naveed alias Usman, according to the sources privy to his two-day-long interrogation, has stuck to his statement that the BSF convoy he attacked on August 5 at Samroli was the target of his group’s fidayeen strike. However, his interrogators suspect that the real target of the alleged LeT plan was Udhampur-based headquarters of the Army’s Northern Command.

"He has not given a convincing answer why his group travelled over 200 Kms on the highway to strike on a BSF convoy which could have been attacked anywhere from Anantnag to Ramban", said a source, though he sounded confident that the Amarnath pilgrimage caravan was not the target.

The NIA team's head, IGP SK Singh, maintained that his organisation would not disclose anything on the progress of the investigation till completion of the process. IGP Kashmir Javaid Mujtaba Gilani confirmed to STATE TIMES that six suspects had been "informally called for questioning". "We are trying to get to the reality but many names he has mentioned were not found real. Even the registration number of the truck that purportedly carried the militants from Kulgam to Udhampur turned out to be the number of a scooter. But we are sure things will become clear in the next two days", IGP Kashmir said.

Nonetheless, STATE TIMES managed to gain access to what the detained militant Naveed has revealed to the NIA interrogators during two days of sustained questioning and what has made at least a dozen persons in South Kashmir to go underground. Houses of two such families on Saturday were found locked in Kulgam and Awantipore areas.

Naveed, according to his interrogation report, has revealed that his four-member group was launched from Halan area of Pakistan by the LeT patron Hafiz Sayeed's son Talha for a major fidayeen strike in J&K. On May 27, the group comprising Naveed and Noman (the militant who died in the encounter at Samroli on August 5), besides Ukasha and Mohammad Bhai, both from Khyber Pakhtunkhwah area of NWFP, set off from Halan. On June 2, it crossed into Gulmarg sector of Kashmir after cutting the fencing at Fajja Top.

While walking with the help of GPS, the group reached Babarishi Gulmarg on June 7.

On the same day, a Kashmiri militant of LeT, Ashiq Hussain Bhat alia Obaida of Chursu, Awantipora, received the group in Babarishi area. He called Showkat of Khadarmooh village of Pulwama with his tipper to Tangmarg. On June 9, Showkat left for Khadermooh with the four Pakistani militants. However, on learning by phone that the Kashmir-based LeT chief Qasim’s hideout in Khadermooh had been raided by Army, Showkat at Pampore diverted his tipper to Awantipora and delivered the four militants at Chursu. Naveed disclosed that he and other members of his group stayed at the houses of Javed and Fayaz at Chursu, on Srinagar-Jammu highway, for four days before shifting to Kakpora and Khadarmooh villages on Pampore-Pulwama Road.

After staying in Kakpora for three days, Naveed's group shifted to Let's hideout in Khrew forest area and stayed there for 40 days. He claimed that three fresh recruits joined his group there and many of South Kashmir-based militants visited the hideout during the month of Ramzan.

On July 23, tipper driver Naseer of Wuyan picked up five militants-----Naveed, Dujana, Shahin Gulzar, Showkat Lone and Abu Ukasha---- and carried them from Khrew to Kakpora. He droped Naveed and Dujana at Kakapora and took three more of the group towards Pulwama where they were intercepted by police. However, all the five militants managed to escape.

Naveed disclosed that during his group’s stay at Kakpora, he was in company of the local LeT militant Talib Shah who got killed in an encounter with Army and Police at his village in 24 hours of the Samroli fidayeen attack. He and other militants also met an important contact called 'Mantri' who looked after their planning and movement. 'Mantri', Naveed disclosed, runs a bakery. Another contact called Tanna, who is Dujana's "overground worker", arranged the vehicle of one Riyaz of Khaderpora by which Dujana went all the way to Lalchowk in Srinagar to receive money from a shopkeeper.

NIA, alongwith J&K Police, are now looking for 'Mantri', Tanna and the Lalchowk shopkeeper.

About a week before the Samroli action, Naveed and Dujana were guided from Kakpora to Khudwani village of Kulgam by Tanna and another local militant Hamza. They stayed at the house of one Riyaz who runs a welding shop near the school at Redwani. It was there that they met with the Kashmir chief of LeT, a Pakistani militant most wanted in South Kashmir. While Tanna and Hanza went back to Pulwama, Qasim assigned the group a high profile fidayeen attack in Jammu region.

After six-day stay in Khudwani, during which they also met Talha, Momin alias Kachru, Muzamil and a civilian contact, Feroz Zargar, Naveed disclosed that he, Noman and Majid left for Jammu in a truck of Showkat alias Setha and conductor Khursheed who separately operates his own truck which met with an accident in Jammu about a month back. Khursheed was injured in that accident. Naveed mentioned registration number of Setha's truck as JK13-2586.

He narrated that on August 4, their truck crossed Lower Munda Toll Post at 2.15 pm. At Ramban, he got down and purchased two bags and some eatables. He said that they put up at Tamatar Morh near Kudh for the night after cooking and eating dinner. Early morning they proceeded towards Udhampur and carried out the attack on the BSF convoy at Samroli after taking Namkeen Chai at a wayside restaurant.

Noman died and Naveed was arrested. Two BSF men got killed and 12 others injured in the fidayeen attack.

Sources said that Police and security agencies are sure that the number of the militants delivered in Udhampur was four to six rather than only two to three as mentioned by Naveed.