TWO Pakistani teenagers named in an Indian government dossier as having facilitated the “infiltration of a group of four Jaish-e-Muhammad cadre who carried out the Uri army camp attack” are being returned home after the National Investigation Agency informed a court on Wednesday that it had no evidence to prosecute them. Faisal Husain Awan, a resident of Potha Jandgran near the village of Koomi Kote in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and his school-friend Ahsan Khursheed, from Khilayana Khurd in Muzaffarabad’s Hattian Bala tehsil, were handed over to the Indian Army, which is expected to hand them over to Pakistani authorities.
The Indian Express had, in December, first published evidence suggesting the two were Class X students at the Shaheen Model School in Muzaffarabad who had accidentally strayed across the Line of Control, and were not terrorists.
NIA officials said they had exercised their authority under Section 169 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which empowers police officials to release arrested individuals if no evidence is found against them. The NIA also informed the designated court in Jammu of its decision. Ghulam Mustafa Tabassum, Awan’s brother, said both teenagers’ families were waiting to receive their wards home but — at the time of writing — were unaware of precisely where they would be handed over.
“How can I tell you what it has been like to see our mother start to weep and scream every night around 2 am or 3 am when her medication wears off,” he said. “People gather around her to comfort her, but they can do nothing but cry, either.”
The two juveniles were arrested by the Indian Army on September 21, three days after the attack which claimed the lives of 19 soldiers. Three days later, an Army spokesperson said the two were “Pakistan-occupied Kashmir nationals who have been working for Jaish-e-Muhammad terror outfit”.
In an e-mail to the The Indian Express, the Army had said this determination was based on what it described as “spot interrogation”. Both juveniles, sources familiar with the investigation said, offered varying testimonies confessing their guilt in the first days after being handed over to the NIA, some throwing up disturbing evidence of coercion. In one statement to a woman doctor working for the Central Reserve Police Force, the two claimed that they had participated in the attack itself, providing details of how incendiary substances were used to set the tents at the 12 Brigade on fire.
Then, in an October 3 statement, the NIA claimed Awan identified one of the four slain terrorists who attacked the 12 Brigade headquarters as Hafiz Ahmad, who he said was the son of Feroze, in the village of Dharbang, west of Murree.
Later, however, the NIA said that it was the Lashkar-e-Taiba which was behind the attack — not, as initially claimed, the Jaish-e-Muhammad — based, in part, on Global Positioning System data retrieved from a set used by one of the attackers and cipher-matrixes they used. The Muridke-based terrorist group had held funeral rites for one of the attackers, as first reported by this newspaper.