The National Investigation Agency on Monday arrested seven Kashmiri separatist leaders in connection with its probe into the funding of terror and subversive activities in the Kashmir Valley, officials said. The seven separatist leaders who were arrested include Naeem Khan, Bitta Karate, Ayaz Akbar, T Saifullah, Meraz Kalwal, Saheed Ul Islam and Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Ahmad Shah alias Altaf Fantosh. Of the seven, Karate was arrested in New Delhi, while the rest were arrested in Srinagar. The leaders will be brought to New Delhi on Monday for further proceedings.
The arrests come after NIA expressed its inability to question the Hurriyat leaders. The investigation agency had issued summons twice to these leaders, but they were unable to respond as they were under preventive custody in Jammu and Kashmir. The NIA had issued summons to Ayaz Akbar, the spokesperson for Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, Raja Merajuddin Kalwal, senior separatist leader, Altaf Fantosh and Peer Saifulla, another of Geelani’s close aides, asking them to appear before the NIA on July 24 at their Jammu and Kashmir branch.
The earlier summons were sent on July 14 and July 17, asking the leaders to come to New Delhi, but none of them responded. Later the agency was informed that the leaders were under preventive detention by the Jammu and Kashmir police.
According to the sources from Home Ministry, the leaders are required by the agency to unearth the larger conspiracy and to establish the money trail from Pakistan. The investigation agency had earlier visited Srinagar in May to probe the allegations of terror funding by Pakistan for illegal activities in Kashmir. The agency is also trying to question the separatist leaders regarding their involvement raising, collecting and transferring funds through Hawala and other channels for terror funding in Kashmir. The NIA, last month had also raided the houses of those arrested and recovered account books, Rs 2 crore in cash and letterheads of banned terror groups, including of the LeT and HM.
The investigation started after Nayeen Khan allegedly confessed to receiving money from Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba to create chaos in the valley during a TV sting operation. While Khan claimed that the sting was fake and doctored, he was suspended from the Hurriyat Conference. After the video surfaced, the NIA registered a preliminary probe against Khan, Tehreek-e- Hurriyat leader Gazi Javed Baba and Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front (R) chairman Farooq Ahmed Dar.
Hafeez Saeed, the Pakistan-based chief of the Lashkar-e-Taiba has also been named as an accused in the FIR besides the Hurriyat conference, Hizbul Mujahideen and Dukhtaran-e-Milat. For the first time since the rise of militancy in Kashmir in the early 1990s, a central probe agency had carried out raids in connection with the funding of separatists.
(With inputs from PTI)