War Of Deception

In the murky spy wars, Kashmir witnesses a major switch over by police moles into militant ranks since the police took over counter-insurgency in 2005. Charged with exchange of money for sensitive information and affiliation with militants, four policemen are behind bars. Alarmed, New Delhi rushed teams here to launch their undercover investigations. P A Mushtaq reports.

On June 14, 2012, when Deputy Inspector General of Police, Central Kashmir Range, Afad-ul-Mujtaba admitted the role of a police-source-turned-militant-supporter in the aborted Chanapora car bomb incident on May 17, it was a tip of the iceberg.

The police mole, Mohammad Yusuf Lone, a resident of Gadoora, Pulwama, along with Lashkar-eToiba militants coordinated the plan to execute a powerful car bomb attacke in Srinagar.

“Lone was previously working as a source of the law enforcement agencies, but later, he switched over loyalties to the LeT,” said Mujtaba.

The arrest of the turncoat ‘police source’ blew the lid over a LeT module in south Kashmir. The car bomb was planted by local militants and a Pakistani IED expert in south Kashmir with the help of the police source.

“Bilal Ahmad Bhat alias Bilal Lalihari, a resident of Lelihar, Pulwama, Sajad Ahmad Bhat alias Shadak, a resident of Zewan, Panthachowk, and a Pakistani, Qasim alias Qasim Bhai along with their other associates planned to target security forces,” said Mujtaba.

Just two days later on June 17, police arrested another of their moles inside the Hizbul Mujahideen, Kashmir’s largest indigenous militant group. This time the mole was a Constable, Muhammad Abbas Rather, from Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of police.

Planting a mole is no new strategy in a state wracked by armed conflict. A rough estimate suggests more than 30,000 militants were present in Kashmir in 1990-91 and the state police were pushed to their back foot handling the situation, while the army and the BSF were given charge to deal with militancy.

Ever since the police took over counter-insurgency in the state in 2005, the personnel drawn from local population have penetrated deep into militant groups as part of counter-insurgency tactics.

One such network was busted when Rather’s questioning led to the arrests of three more police personnel – Riaz Ahmed, Mohammad Ilyas and Mukhtar Ahmad Sheikh. While two are from old city’s Khanyar area, one hails from south Kashmir.

Police’s deepening penetration into militant ranks can be gauged from the fact that Sheikh was pivotal in providing SIM cards to the 26/11 attackers of Mumbai. A resident of Srinagar’s Khanyar area, Sheikh worked with top police officers to penetrate into the militant ranks. All that would be done under close supervision of police officers in Kashmir. When Sheikh was held for providing SIM cards to the Mumbai attackers, the state police prevailed upon central security agencies and ensured his release.

Sheikh was let off as the Jammu and Kashmir police claimed that he had planted 22 SIM cards in Lashkar-e-Tayyeba (LeT) as part of the police design to crackdown on the militant outfit.

This year, Sheikh along with Ilyas and Ahmad met Hizb militant Shabir Ahmad alias Adil in Tral area of Pulwama of south Kashmir to strike a deal for information and weapons against hefty sums of money.

“It was decided that militants would be provided pictures of police officials, their residential houses and information regarding movement of police officials in lieu of the huge money,” said the police report.

During the search of Rather’s house, the police recovered a document written in Urdu.  “It revealed how to prepare an IED and use it. The document indicated that the person was in league with militants and was planning to explode IEDs to terrorise people,” said the police report. “He (Rather) was in league with anti-national people and involved in terrorist activities.”

Police suspect that its moles had switched sides and started working for the Hizb. The four cops are also suspected of providing sensitive information and acting as weapons couriers.

These arrests have brought spotlight back on unaccounted weapons in possession of the some policemen and their subsequent sale to militants as part of counter-insurgency operations in the state. The police are investigating any sale of weapons against money to the militant group. The recent attacks in Srinagar have also come under a fresh scanner.

It was a mysterious attack on the life of a former Hizbul Mujahideen militant Ghulam Hassan Mir alias Shabnam at Saderbal, Hazratbal on June 7, which is at the centre of the expose’. Shabnam, who was shot at, survived the attack. A similar attack took place in south Kashmir too on a Hizb militant’s house.

The police are playing down the incident. Director General of Police (DGP), K Rajendra told a newspaper that “earlier also, some constables have been arrested or quizzed for militants links.”

“We will get to bottom of the investigations and take them to logical conclusion.”

The arrests have set in confusion within the police ranks. The police suspect greater role of these constables in recent militant attacks in Srinagar like the Victory Crossing shoot out in old city’s Khanyar area, which left seven forces’ personnel injured.

The policemen, whose role is suspected in attacks, have been booked under Section 10, 13, 18 of the Unlawful Prevention Activities Act and Section 3 of Police Enhanced Penalties Ordinance.

These sections are slapped on a person who is a member of a terrorist organization or takes part in their meetings or in any way assists the operations of such organisations.

The section also refers to the person’s involvement in possession of any unlicensed firearms, ammunition, explosive or substance capable of causing casualties or damage to any property.

New Delhi has also woken up to the ‘alarming’ ground situation in Kashmir. From the National Investigation Agency to Intelligence Bureau and CRPF, the police-militant nexus baffles them all.

The central agencies are also looking into the aspect of unaccounted weapons that police used to sell to militants through moles to gain confidence. The investigators fear that some police personnel were selling guns to militants from the unaccounted weapons recovered or seized during police secret operations but not itemised.

The investigating agency fear bigger network of police personnel switching sides to militants and search is on to nab others.

Preliminary investigation suggests that Mohammad Abbas is related to Jan Mohammad Ahangar alais Jan Moulvi, who left Navy and was subsequently killed in a gun battle in Pulwama district  in August 2009.

While the disclosure attracted Central security agencies’ focus, the police were reluctant to allow IB investigations into a case described by them as “criminal conspiracy” and not militancy.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has cleared the proposal of keeping the central agencies in the loop.

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