Arrested ‘Hindu’ LeT militant from UP planned attacks on army, J-K police
The Jammu and Kashmir police said on Monday they arrested an Uttar Pradesh man who allegedly helped Pakistan-based terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) attack army convoys, snatch weapons and loot lakhs of rupees.
This is likely the first such arrest of an Indian LeT operative outside the Kashmir Valley. Most of the group’s members come from the Valley, Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, police say.
Police said Sandeep Kumar Sharma moved to Kashmir in 2012 for work and would travel to Punjab during the winter for alternative employment.
But he returned in January with plans to rob ATMs, and made contact with LeT militants through local informants and allegedly became an associate of notorious LeT militant Bashir Lashkari, police added.
He allegedly planned at least five cases of ATM loot worth lakhs of rupees earlier this year. He was also allegedly a part of LeT teams that attacked an army convoy in Qazigund, snatched weapons in Anantnag and attacked a police party at Achabal in which six cops including a station house officer (SHO), were killed, J&K police chief Muneer Khan said. The Valley’s police have reached out to their counterparts in Uttar Pradesh for further investigation.
“Of course, he (Sharma) is a militant. Criminal elements are now joining the militants for their own goals…. terrorists of Lashkar used him very frequently in carrying out nefarious activities,” Khan told a packed audience in Srinagar on Monday morning.
Police said Sharma – who was presented for photographs with a black cloth covering his face -- used an alias of Adil and had the advantage of not being from the state and his car having UP-registration number plates. Along with Sharma, police also arrested one Muneeb Shah of Kulgam, a part of the same Lashkar module.
The arrest comes amid growing turmoil in the Kashmir Valley that has seen mounting militant attacks and civilian unrest over the past year. The arrest is expected to usher in strict scrutiny of people coming to work in Kashmir from other parts of the country.
“Certainly it’s a challenge. It’s a new scenario…We have to be careful about all workers coming into Kashmir from other parts of India. In most cases, characters or antecedents are not known, so we have to go for in-depth verification,” added Khan.
The police said they first came across Sharma during a July 1 encounter in Dialgam during a four-hour operation to rescue 17 civilians taken hostage by militants. Khan said the police then questioned him to find out what he was doing there.
“On further inquiry by police, it was revealed that Sharma along with other individuals hatched a criminal conspiracy leading to providing shelter, ferrying of terrorists from one place to other for terror strikes and actively participating in terrorist activities,” the police press note added.
Police said Sharma and others allegedly received LeT terrorists and dropped them at different sites in south Kashmir. He also allegedly concealed weapons looted from police guards in a vehicle and shifted them to different locations.