The Jammu and Kashmir police on Monday arrested Sandeep Kumar Sharma, a Lashakr-e-Toiba operative who was allegedly involved in a spate of bank and ATM robberies in the state.
Sandeep Kumar alias Adil is said to be a resident of Muzzafarnagar in Uttar Pradesh and was involved in the recent attack that killed six police personnel, including SHO Firoz Dar. He came under the police radar when he was found hiding inside a Lashkar hideout.
Police said Sandeep first came to the Valley in 2012 to work as a welder during the summers. In the winters, he would go outside the Valley, especially to Patiala. It was during this time that he came in contact with LeT operatives.
“While working in Punjab, he came in contact with one Shahid Ahmad, a resident of Kulgam, who was also working in Punjab. In January this year, he came to the valley and planned to loot ATMs and other robberies in south Kashmir,” said Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir, Munir Khan.
Sandeep then moved into a rented accommodation in Kulgam with Shahid Ahmad, Muneeb Shah, and Muzaffar Ahmad. It was here that they met hardcore LeT terrorist Shakoor Ahmad, the IGP said. “That was the beginning of all these criminal activities. The militants utilized the services of Sandeep for looting ATMs and the booty was shared,” he added.
According to the Police, apart from the June 16 incident in which SHO Firoz Dar was killed, Sandeep was also involved in an ambush on an army convoy in lower Munda in which two army jawans were killed and four were injured. “He was also arrested with some other associates in a robbery case in March this year at Mir Bazar and remained in judicial custody till he was bailed out,” Khan disclosed.
Sandeep was nabbed from the same house where the LeT commander and the mastermind behind the police attack, Bashir Lashkari, was killed earlier this month. “We apprehended Sandeep during the encounter in which notorious militant Lashkari was eliminated. It raised the fingers of suspicion. We were surprised to see a non-local sitting in the same house where Lashkari was taking shelter, so we decided to go further,” added the police.
Sandeep’s arrest also led to the arrest of another operative Muneeb Shah with whom he was staying in Kulgam.
When asked if this was a first case of its kind in the valley, the IGP said, “In my knowledge, yes it is the first such case.” He also added that investigations are on to check the possibility of involvement of more non-locals in militancy and that more arrests are in the offing.
Sandeep Kumar is the first Hindu Lashkar militant who has been arrested in Kashmir since the militancy erupted in the Valley.
(With inputs from PTI)