Police arrests Lashkar-e-Taiba militant Sandeep Kumar Sharma, resident of Uttar Pradesh, from the same house where LeT commander Bashir Lashkari was killed on July 1, at a press conference in Srinagar on Monday. Pic/PTI
In a major breakthrough, Jammu and Kashmir police today said it has busted an LeT module and arrested two people, including a resident of Uttar Pradesh who was an active part of the group that killed six police personnel in south Kashmir.
"We have busted a module involved in a series of sensational crimes, including terror crimes, in south Kashmir.
Two individuals, Sandeep Kumar Sharma alias Adil, a resident of Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh, and Muneeb Shah, a resident of Kulgam in south Kashmir, have been arrested," Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir Munir Khan told reporters.
The arrest of Sandeep, who was used frequently by the Lashkar-e-Taiba and made full use of the fact that he was a non-local, points to the blurring lines between criminality and terrorism, he said.
Some new things as far militancy in Kashmir is concerned have come to the surface during investigations into the looting of banks and ATMs.
"Investigations have revealed the angle of criminals who are involved in militancy and how they are being used by militant outfit LeT. How they are plundering and looting banks and ATMs and funding militant outfits as well as themselves," he said.
Sandeep was nabbed from the same house where LeT commander Bashir Lashkari was killed on July 1. His arrest led to Shah being caught. "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."
The IGP said the probe revealed that Sandeep had come to the valley in 2012 and worked as a welder here in the summers. In the winters, he would go outside the valley, especially to Patiala.
"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."
Four people -- Sandeep, Muneeb Shah, Shahid Ahmad and Muzaffar Ahmad -- stayed in a rented accommodation in Kulgam for carrying out criminal activities. It was here that they met hardcore LeT terrorist Shakoor Ahmad, the IGP disclosed.
"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.
The IGP said Sandeep was involved in criminal and militant activities and became a "hardcore terrorist in the sense that he accompanied LeT terrorists in three actions". He was involved in an attack on a police party in Achabal in south Kashmir on June 16 in which SHO Feroze Dar and five others were killed and their faces disfigured as well as the June 3 ambush on an army convoy in lower Munda in which a jawan was killed and the snatching of weapons from retired Justice Muzaffar Attar's guard in Anantnag.
"In all these actions, Sandeep was present and participating," Khan said.
Sandeep, who is now in police custody with the state police in touch with its counterparts in Uttar Pradesh, was an expert in looting. "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.
"Investigations are going on and a number of arrests are in the offing," he said.
Asked whether this was a first case of its kind in the valley, the IGP said, "In my knowledge, yes it is the first such case."
"Criminal elements are joining the militancy. Lashker has become an outfit of criminals¿ Militants are criminals," he said.
Asked about the possibility of involvement of more non-locals in militancy in the valley, he said police would verify all non-local labourers. "Seeing this scenario, I have to investigate and get the verifications done of all the non-locals who are working in the valley in different capacities."
He described the "new scenario" as a challenge for the police. "Certainly it is a challenge because it is a new scenario which we have to deal with in the coming days because we have to be careful now of all the workers who come to Kashmir from different parts of India as in most of the cases the character and the antecedents are not known. We have to go for in-depth verifications of all of them," he said.