It was the fear of being beaten up by a girl’s family that forced two PoK teenagers, arrested on charges of aiding the Uri attack, to flee their homes and stray into India, an NIA official has said.
Classmates Faisal Husain Awan and Ahsan Khursheed fled their villages after they got to know that the parents of a girl they had harassed were looking for them.
In fact, they entered India two days after the September 18 attack on the Uri army base, the NIA official said on condition of anonymity. Nineteen soldiers were killed in the audacious strike carried out by suspected Pakistani militants.
“They ran away but accidentally crossed the LoC (line of control) in Jammu and Kashmir where they were found loitering close to Uri on September 20 and picked up by locals,” the official, who is investigating the attack, said.
The National Investigation Agency would on March 8 ask a Jammu court to close the case against the two, the officer said. The boys, who are Class 10 students, are lodged in Jammu’s Kot Bhalwal jail.
The villagers thrashed the boys and handed them over to the army, which questioned them.
Afraid that they would be beaten up again, the runaways claimed they were asked by the Pakistan-based militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad to help the four Uri attackers cross into India. The four were killed during the attack.
“They were very scared. For initial seven days in the NIA custody, the boys kept saying they were the guides who brought the Uri attackers,” said the official.
The country’s top anti-terror agency took over the investigation two days after the attack.
“They told us about earlier instances when they had brought attackers. We video-recorded their statements also,” the official said.
It was on the basis of these confessions that the NIA issued a statement about the boys being tasked by Jaish to help the Uri attackers cross the LoC, the de facto border between the two countries.
“But somehow things were not adding up. There was something missing,” said the official.
The doubts were proved true when after a week in NIA custody, Awan and Khursheed said they were not with Jaish.
They were residents of Pitha Jandgran and Khiyana Khurd villages in the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and had strayed into India. The villages are an hour’s walk from the LoC.
The data collected from their mobile phone suggested they crossed the LoC two days after the Uri attack, the official said.
The agency, however, will not mention in its closure report the reason for the two fleeing their homes.
“It was not our mandate. We had to see whether the boys were involved in the Uri attack and our probe says they were not,” said the official.
They will get a reprieve only if the court accepts the findings of the agency. If that happens, they can hope to be home soon.
The investigation in the Uri attack, however, will continue.
The agency is yet to find evidence of Jaish’s involvement. A comparison of the food items and arms recovered from the Uri attackers with that of recoveries made in the Valley point to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, NIA sources said.
Pakistan-based Lashkar carried out the 2008 Mumbai attack that left 166 people dead.