The Jammu and Kashmir police arrested a PhD student and two undergraduates along with three other men Monday for allegedly trying to carry out an attack on a CRPF vehicle along the Jammu-Srinagar highway near Banihal last month.
The J&K police said that the six men were allegedly part of a bid planned and executed jointly by the Jaish-e-Mohammad, which claimed responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama attack, and the Hizbul Mujahideen. On March 30, an explosives-laden car hit a CRPF bus, burst into flames and exploded a little later but the driver managed to flee. Except for slight damage to the rear of the bus, there were no injuries among CRPF personnel.
Jammu IGP M K Sinha said that the three arrested students from Shopian — Hilal Ahmed Mantoo, a PhD student at Central University in Bhatinda; Owais Amin, who was studying BBA and Umar Shafi, a BCA student — were allegedly radicalised by the banned Jamaat-i-Islami’s students wing Jamat-ul-Tulba.
Amin, according to the police, drove the car that hit the CRPF bus and was arrested two days later. Police said that Shafi, a resident of Shopian, was arrested on information that Amin provided during questioning. The other three men arrested are Aquib Shah and Shahid Wani alias Watson, both residents of Shopian, and Wasim Ahmed Dar alias from Pulwama. Sinha said Mantoo was a close confident of Hizbul commander Dr Saifullah who is operating in South Kashmir and has motivated several young men in the area to join militant ranks.
According to the police, the mastermind behind the failed attack is a Pakistani terrorist Munna Bihari of Jaish, who is active currently in South Kashmir. Another Jaish terrorist Shah Jahan was involved in the fabrication of the car bomb IED.
Two Hizbul Mujahideen modules, one led by Dr Saifullah and another by Rayees Ahmed Khan alias Imaad Khan, were also actively involved in the entire operation with Jaish, right from collecting explosives and other materials for the IED, selecting the car and choosing the men for the attack on the CRPF convoy.
Sinha also said that the three students were “selected” because all three had clean records and were not on the police’s radar. And since Owais and Omar studied at Srinagar, they were called to Shopian for a meeting arranged by another person, Shahid, who has also been arrested. In the meeting, Omar allegedly agreed to carry out the attack, Sinha said, and that the car and the IED were fabricated between March 15-25.
Police said that Omar first tried to enter the CRPF convoy on March 26, but failed. He managed to enter the convoy the next day but, according to police, the IED did not go off. Sinha said that his handlers, in a video call, asked him to explain his failure after which he was directed to park the car at Banihal so someone could re-fabricate the IED.
Sinha said that Wasim and Sahil Abdullah, both from the from repaired the IED and left and that Abdullah, an active Hizbul militant is yet to be arrested.