Pulwama Attack: NIA Files Charges Against Masood Azhar, 18 Others

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Jammu: Wrapping up the probe into a fatal militant attack that left 40 CRPF personnel dead in South Kashmir last year, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Tuesday filed a chargesheet in a special court here against 19 people including Masood Azhar, the chief of banned militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, for planning the suicide operation.

Leading the investigation into the “blind case”, as seven accused wanted in it were killed during different encounters in 2019, a team led by joint director of the NIA Anil Shukla gathered evidences and statements of militants and their sympathisers arrested in different cases in order to expose the conspiracy hatched for executing the audacious attack on the para-military convoy, officials said.

The 13,500-page chargesheet names Masood Azhar, his brothers — Abdul Rauf and Ammar Alvi — and his nephew Mohammed Umer Farooq, who had infiltrated into India in 2018 and was subsequently killed in one of the encounters in South Kashmir.

According to security forces, Farooq had entered India in late 2018 using the natural caves at the Samba sector in Jammu region along the international border.

The chargesheet says suicide bomber Adil Ahmed Dar was driving the car laden with 200 kgs of explosives and had prepared his last video at Shakir Bashir’s residence in Pulwama on a high-tech phone brought by Bilal Ahmed Kuchey.

While Dar is now dead, both Bashir and Kuchey have been arrested.

The explosive laden car, which was driven by Bashir initially before he handed it over to Dar, was rammed into a bus carrying CRPF personnel from Jammu to Srinagar at Lethpora in Pulwama district of South Kashmir on February 14, 2019.

From virtually a case that reached a “dead end” as the five people known to the agency earlier this year either as conspirators or executors of the attack were eliminated in various encounters, the case threw unique challenges for the NIA as there was no solid information about the perpetrators or the mastermind behind the attack.

“It was a blind case for us. There were a lot of murmurs but everything needs to be established beyond doubt in the court of law,” a senior official, who is part of the probe, said here.

The first challenge was to establish the ownership of the car used by Dar, the suicide bomber. There was nothing available from the vehicle which carried a cocktail of explosives like Ammonium Nitrate, Nitro Glycerine and RDX, the official said.

But with the help of forensic methods and painstaking investigations, the serial number of the car that was blown into pieces beyond recognition was extracted and within no time the ownership of the vehicle was established — from the first to the last owner.

However, the last owner of the car, Sajjad Bhat (named in the chargesheet) of Bijbehara in Anantnag district, had disappeared hours before the February 14 attack and joined Jaish-e-Mohammed. He was subsequently killed in an encounter in June last year.

“While it was clear that the suicide attacker was Adil Ahmed Dar but the same had to be established with evidence. After picking up human remains from various spots, they were sent for DNA profiling,” the official, who requested anonymity, said.

“The suicide attacker was identified and confirmed by matching the DNA extracted from the meagre car fragments with that of the DNA of his father,” he said.

The role of other conspirators which included Mudasir Ahmed Khan, Qari Mufti Yasser and Kamran came to light but all of them were killed in different encounters with security forces.

Khan was killed on March 10, Kamran on March 29, Sajjad Bhat on June 18 of last year while Qari Yasser was shot in an encounter on January 25 this year.

After JeM spokesperson Mohd Hassan in a video claimed that his group was responsible for the attack, it was sent for forensic examination and the Internet Protocol address was traced to a computer based in Pakistan.

The official said during the investigation, the NIA stumbled upon another case of over ground workers of JeM which was subsequently busted.

This case also brings to light the use of e-commerce platforms by the planners in the militant module for purchase of high-end batteries, phones and some chemicals. As many as seven people have been arrested so far by the NIA in this case, the officials said.

Besides Azhar, those charge sheeted include six militants who were killed in various encounters and four absconders, two of whom are still hiding in Jammu and Kashmir — one of them a local and the other a Pakistani national.

Salahuddin, 11 Hizb Men Charged Under PMLA

In the related development, the Enforcement Directorate Tuesday filed a charge sheet before Delhi court against Pakistan-based Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin and 11 others for allegedly laundering money for financing militant activities in Jammu and Kashmir.

The agency said the charge sheet is also related to blasts carried out by the militant group in Jammu and Kashmir in 2011 in alleged connivance with the Pakistani government and its spying arm ISI.

The prosecution complaint, ED’s equivalent to charge sheet, has urged the court for confiscating attached assets totalling to Rs1.22 crores in the case, besides other punishment under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The case is likely to be taken up by the court soon.

The central probe agency had filed a criminal case of money laundering after taking cognisance of a National Investigating Agency (NIA) charge sheet filed against Salahuddin, Mohammad Shafi Shah and others under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and other sections of the Indian Penal Code.

The ED charge sheet filed before a special court under various sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) named Mohammad Shafi Shah alias Doctor/Dawood/Nisar, Talib Lali alias Talib Hussain Lali/Waseem/Abu Umer, Mohd Yusuf Shah alias Syed Salahuddin, Gulam Nabi Khan alias Amir Khan, Umer Farooq Shera alias Mehboob-ul-Haq, Manzoor Ahmed Dar alias Masroor Dar, Zaffar Hussain Bhat alias Khursheed, Nazir Ahmad Dar alias Shabir Ellahi/Khalid, Abdul Majeed Sofi alias Majeed Bisati/Shaheen, Mubarak Shah, Muzaffar Ahmad Dar/Gaznavi/Mohd Ali and Mushtaq Ahmad Lone alias Mushtaq Aalam.

The agency said it took over probe in the case after taking congnisance of a 2011 FIR of the NIA in which Mohammad Shafi Shah and his associates were alleged to be involved in execution of sensational blasts in Jammu and Kashmir and huge quantity of arms, ammunition and explosives were recovered from them.

The ED said its money laundering investigation found “that Hizbul Mujahideen– the most active outfit in Kashmir, has been responsible for funding militant and secessionist activities in Jammu and Kashmir headed by Syed Salahuddin– its self-styled commander based out of Rawalpindi in Pakistan.”

“The funding of militant activities on Indian soil had been organised by a trust called JKART (Jammu & Kashmir Affectees Relief Trust) which was operating in connivance with the government of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the ISI,” the ED said.

It is also revealed, the ED said, that the militant funds were sent to India through the hawala channel, barter traders and human carriers.

“The funds were further distributed through hawala, human carriers and banking channels to the next of kin of active as well as dead Hizbul Mujahideen militants,” the agency said.

The “master minds” behind the distribution of these funds, allegedly used for financing of militant activities in the Kashmir valley, were Mohammad Shafi and Talib Lali, residents of Bandipora in JK, Muzaffar Ahmed Dar of Budgam and Mushtaq Ahmed Lone of Anantnag.

The agency said it has earlier attached 13 properties, worth Rs 1.22 crore, “belonging” to seven militants as part of this investigation.

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