PROBING ALLEGED funding of separatist leaders in the Valley, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Saturday carried out raids at 26 locations in Kashmir, Haryana and Delhi. Among those raided were Altaf Fantoosh, son-in-law of separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, businessman Zahoor Watali, Shahid-ul-Islam, leader of Awami Action Committee led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, and some other leaders belonging to both factions of the Hurriyat Conference and JKLF.
The case was registered following a sting operation by a news channel, where separatist leaders were purportedly caught on camera divulging that they received money from Pakistan-based militant groups to carry out subversive activities in the Valley. After registering an FIR earlier this week, various NIA teams, which had been camping in the Valley for the last few days, moved under heavy escort from their camp office at Humhama, on the outskirts of Srinagar, to raid different locations. This was the first time raids were conducted at simultaneous locations in Srinagar.
Earlier, Enforcement Directorate (ED) or police raids used to take place at premises of individual leaders or hawala operators. Today’s simultaneous raids were conducted at Sanatnagar, Bemina, Nowgam, Hyderpora, Kokerbazar and several localities in the old city. In a statement, the NIA said the subject of investigation is to probe the entire chain of players suspected to be financing terrorist activities, including stone-pelting on security forces, burning of schools, and damaging government establishments, among others.
The NIA said more than Rs 2 crore cash, gold jewellery worth nearly Rs 40 lakh, large number of property-related documents, letterheads of banned terrorist organisations such as LeT and HM, several pen drives, laptops, mobile phones and other incriminating documents, including phone diaries, kachcha receipts, vouchers were seized from the financiers, hawala operators, office-bearers of separatist groups. Bank accounts and lockers revealed during the course of investigation have been ordered to be frozen, the NIA said.
The people concerned have been summoned for questioning and further investigation will continue, according to the statement. NIA and ED officials spent around six hours in separatist leader Shahid-ul-Islam’s home in Srinagar’s upscale Sanat Nagar locality. Islam is a close aide of Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Before the raid, CRPF personnel cordoned the area and barred anyone from getting near the house. Agencies’ sleuths also spent hours at the Bemina residence of Mohammad Altaf Shah Fantoosh, son-in-law of Geelani.
Sources said officials took away some documents. Homes of separatist leaders Nayeem Khan and Mehraj Kalwal were also raided, as were residences of Zahoor Ahmad Watali, a prominent businessman and relative of a former J&K Inspector General of Police. Watali is said to be close to several mainstream politicians and serving bureaucrats. Homes and commercial establishments of three other businessmen — Zahoor Sultan, Basher Negro and Raja Zahoor — were also raided and officials claim that they have found some vital material and documents related to hawala transactions from these places.
The NIA also raided the house and shops of Haji Mohammad Sultan, a prominent trader who deals in cross-LoC trade. Officials said the raids were carried out after NIA questioned separatist leaders Nayeem Khan, Farooq Ahmed and Gazi Javed Baba on suspicion that they received funds from hawala operators. The agency suspects these leaders received money from different quarters and used it to fund subversive activities in the Valley, including stone-pelting. The separatist leaders allege it is political vendetta of the BJP.