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NIA nabs six separatists from Srinagar, 1 from Delhi for funding terror after Hizbul commander Burhan Wani’s killing by Indian security forces in July last year

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), on Monday, arrested seven separatist leaders including hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s son-in-law, Altaf Shah. The seven are suspected of having funded terror activity and unrest in the Valley after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8 last year.

The NIA arrested Altaf Shah, Naeem Khan, Meraz Kalwal, Saheed Ul Islam, Ayaz Akbar, T Saifullah from Srinagar while Bitta Karate was arrested from New Delhi. Besides Shah, who is Geelani’s son-in-law, the others arrested by the NIA are also close aides of various prominent leaders of the Hurriyat Conference. Islam is a close aide of moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Akbar is the spokesperson for the Geelani-led Hurriyat faction.

Interestingly, Naeem Khan had been suspended from his membership of the Hurriyat Conference in May by Geelani after a sting operation surfaced in which Khan purportedly confessed to receiving funds from Pakistan with the purpose of triggering unrest in the Kashmir Valley. The NIA had then registered a preliminary probe against Khan, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat leader Gazi Javed Baba and few others based on the sting operation done by a leading private news channel.

The NIA has been investigating if separatists in the Valley used funds from Pakistani non-state actors to fuel the large-scale violent protests that erupted across Kashmir last year after Wani’s killing. The protests, that saw the Valley consumed by violence and arson, had left more than 100 people dead while security forces had drawn flak for the rampant use of pellet guns that left thousands of civilians injured, even maimed.

HAFIZ SAEEDThe PTI has reported that Hafeez Saeed, the Pakistan-based chief of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, has also been named as an accused in the FIR besides the Hurriyat conference and groups like Hizbul Mujahideen and Dukhtaran-e-Milat.

Over the past few months, the NIA has carried out multiple raids across the country in connection with the terror funding network. However, its efforts at interrogating the top Hurriyat leadership had so far not yielded any major results as the Separatist leaders had predictably resisted the move.

Some of those arrested by the NIA, on Monday, had also been issued summons by the premier agency for appearing before its sleuths of the Jammu and Kashmir branch on July 24. Summons had earlier been sent on July 14 and July 17 too, said home ministry sources, adding that despite these repeated requests to make themselves available for questioning, none of the Separatist leaders responded. The agency was later informed that the leaders – Akbar, kalwal and Shah – were under preventive detention by the Jammu and Kashmir police.

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