Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Police have arrested as many as 39 youths on charges of being involved in the stone-pelting incident at Srinagar city’s Jama Masjid last Friday, Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar said here on Wednesday.
According to the senior police official, of them 15 youth have been slapped with the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA). “We will not allow stone pelting at any cost. We have arrested 39 stone-pelters in Srinagar recently. Fifteen of them will be booked under PSA,” IGP Kumar said during a press conference in Srinagar.
The youths have been accused of stone-pelting during last Friday’s clashes between locals and government forces at Nowhatta locality on the day senior Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was expected to address the weekly congregation at the central Jama Mosque. He was, however, detained at his Nigeen residence, leading to protests.
IGP Kumar also claimed that the police had arrested a group of persons who were part of a module of the terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). According to the police the group was planning a Pulwama-like IED attack in the region. “We arrested a first year bachelor’s student who was motivated through social media applications. After interrogating him four more youth were arrested,” Kumar said.
Nine militants have been killed in the region so far this year and as many as two IED attacks have been foiled by government forces. The security forces, however, are expecting a slight increase in violence with the onset of summer. Suspected militants have also carried out targeted killings in Srinagar, including the killing of two non-Muslim businessmen.
In the latest gunfight between militants and armed forces in Tujjar Sharief area of North Kashmir’s Sopore on Tuesday, Ghani Khwaja, a top militant from the outfit Al Badr, was killed. According to the police Khwaja was a recycled militant who had joined the ranks for the first time in 2000.
“In 2000 he went to Pakistan for training and then returned in 2002 following which he remained active for five years,” IGP Kumar said.
The militant commander was then arrested in 2007 and slapped with the PSA. However, he was released a year later. The police claimed that Khwaja remained in touch with militant outfits between 2008 and December 2017 as their ‘over-ground worker’.
“After August 5, 2019 he left Hizbul Mujahideen and joined the Al Badr outfit. We know since 2020 Pakistan is trying to reactivate Al Badr. He was also responsible for receiving and facilitating militant groups from Pakistan,” IGP Kumar added.
Other than Al Badr, over a dozen militant outfits have cropped up in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A. Outfits like The Resistance Front (TRF) have gained momentum since. The security agencies say new outfits are part of the militants’ plan to divert focus from older outfits like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and JeM. TRF, according to many in the security grid, is seen as a front for LeT.
“We received information that the LeT commander earlier with JeM, Abbas Sheikh, was in Srinagar’s Chanapora locality,” IGP Kumar said. Abbas is also a senior recycled militant from South Kashmir who joined TRF after his fallout with Hizb.
What also concerns the security agencies is the recent recovery of “sticky bombs”, which are believed to be intended for targeted killings. The police claimed to have recovered around two dozen sticky bombs which have been used extensively by Taliban against the NATO forces in Afghanistan.