SRINAGAR: Nearly eight months after the tragic massacre of minorities in Dhangri, Rajouri district, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) today disclosed that the killings were orchestrated by three dreaded Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants, The Daily Excelsior reported. Two individuals, instrumental in sheltering the perpetrators in a hideout for two months, have been arrested.
The NIA has identified the three Pakistan-based LeT militants responsible for ordering the Dhangri killings as Saifullah alias Sajid Jutt, Abu Qatal alias Qatal Sindhi, and Mohammad Wasim. Two militant associates who were taken into custody today for harbouring the Dhangri killers for two months in a hideout constructed for them have been identified as Nisar Ahmed alias Haji Nisar, son of Mohammad Sharief, and Mushtaq Hussain, son of Mir Mohammad. Both are residents of Gursai and were previously detained in Central Jail Kot Bhalwal due to another case filed against them at Gursai Police Station in Mendhar tehsil of Poonch district.
Following their arrest, they were presented before the NIA Special Court in Jammu and remanded into 12 days of NIA custody for intensive questioning aimed at uncovering further details about the killers and their mentors across the border.
Sources have refrained from commenting on whether the militants involved in the Dhangri massacre have been eliminated or are still operating in the Rajouri-Poonch or South Kashmir regions, The Daily Excelsior reported. The possibility of their escape to Pakistan or Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir (PoJK) after the killings has not been ruled out.
Both of the accused arrested on Sunday by the NIA were already incarcerated in Central Jail Kot Bhalwal, Jammu. Their names came to light during the investigation into the Dhangri killings.
The NIA’s revelations come at a time when the relatives of Dhangri victims, including Saroj Bala, who lost her two sons in the attack, have once again threatened to stage protests beginning on Monday, demanding the immediate arrest or elimination of the militants responsible for the killing of seven civilians from the minority community in Dhangri, Rajouri district, on January 1 of this year.
NIA investigations have revealed that both of the arrested individuals played a role in sheltering the militants responsible for the civilian killings. “They had provided logistical support to the terrorists for more than two months and had sheltered them in a hideout, which was constructed by the arrested accused persons on the directions of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) handlers, namely Saifullah alias Sajid Jutt, Abu Qatal alias Qatal Sindhi, and Mohammad Qasim,” stated an official statement issued by the NIA.
The statement further disclosed that a team of NIA officials had conducted extensive investigations in the hilly terrain of Rajouri, Poonch, and Reasi districts of the Jammu region, eventually narrowing down their focus to the two individuals who had provided shelter to the killers.
On January 1, 2023, a devastating attack by unidentified terrorists resulted in the death of five individuals and serious injuries to others. The following day, two more civilians lost their lives when an Improvised Explosive Device (IED), planted by the militants at the scene of the carnage, exploded in Dhangri.
The case was initially registered as FIR no. 01/2023 at Rajouri Police Station, under Sections 302/307/120-B/452/323 of IPC; Sections 13/16/18 of UA (P) Act 1967, and Section 7/27 of the Arms Act. The NIA subsequently took over the investigation and re-registered the case on January 13.
The NIA statement concluded by noting that further investigations into the case are ongoing. However, officials have not disclosed the identity of the militants responsible for the Dhangri killings. Some reports suggest they may have been eliminated in separate encounters, while others claim they may still be active in the border districts of Rajouri, Poonch, or South Kashmir.
According to official reports, the killers were Pakistani nationals, and it is also possible that they managed to cross the Line of Control (LoC) to return to Pakistan after the killings.
Throughout the year, Rajouri and Poonch witnessed three major incidents, including the Dhangri massacre on December 1, the Bhatta Durrian incident in Mendhar on April 20, in which five Army personnel died, and the Kandi forests operation in Rajouri district on May 5, resulting in the loss of five para commandos.