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Kashmir: Family of LeT suspect comes to his defence, says he never went into hiding

Police arrested 37-year-old Bilal Ahmad Kawa from the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Wednesday evening. He was charged with using his bank account to transact hawala money for facilitating terror strikes at the Red Fort and several places in Kashmir.

india Updated: Jan 11, 2018 18:06 IST
Toufiq Rashid
Toufiq Rashid
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Lashkar-e-Taiba,Gujarat police,Delhi
The Red Fort, where the Independence Day function is held every year, was attacked by Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists on December 22, 2000. Two soldiers and a civilian were killed in the incident. (Ajay Aggarwal/HT Photo)

The family members of an alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba operative arrested in New Delhi have rejected Intelligence claims that he was involved in the 2000 Red Fort terror attack, maintaining that he never went underground to evade arrest.

Police arrested 37-year-old Bilal Ahmad Kawa from the Indira Gandhi International Airport on Wednesday evening. He was charged with using his bank account to transact hawala money for facilitating terror strikes at the Red Fort and several places in Kashmir.

Kawa’s family said he had never moved away from his ancestral home in Kashmir. “We have been living in this place for decades. Although Bilal has constructed a new house, his ancestral home remains on the compound. Bilal never left this place. If he was underground for 17 years, why did the police not search his house?” a relative asked.

Kawa’s family maintained that he was a leather merchant with no militant links.

The suspect’s uncle, Mohammad Shafi, said he was only a teenager when terrorists attacked the Red Fort on December 22, 2000 – killing two soldiers and a civilian. “Even this time, he had gone to Delhi under his own name, carrying haak (collard greens) and Kashmiri bread for his family,” said Shafi. “Terrorists don’t live in their own houses and book flight tickets in their own name.”

Kawa’s relatives said he had gone to the national capital to visit his wife and two daughters, who were staying there for the duration of the winter. “Bilal’s brother, Niyaz Ahmad Kawa, resides in Delhi. Bilal and his family would stay with him every winter to get away from the cold weather here,” said Hinna, a cousin.

Jammu and Kashmir police are verifying the family’s claims. “Bilal’s relatives did come to us,” confirmed additional director general of police Muneer Khan. “We are in touch with our people in Delhi as well.”

First Published: Jan 11, 2018 18:04 IST