In a big blow to the leaders of Hurriyat and other factions of separatists, the National Investigation Agency today arrested seven leaders including Altaf Ahmed Shah, the son-in-law of hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, for alleged links to funding of terror groups operating in Kashmir. The arrest comes almost a month after Shah was questioned by the NIA in connection with its probe into the funding of terror and subversive activities in Kashmir.
Shah, popularly known as Altaf Fantoosh, was in the custody of the Jammu and Kashmir Police, who had put him in preventive detention immediately after the festival of Eid earlier this month.
Shah’s arrest is among the most prominent among the seven. Besides being the son-in-law of Geelani, Shah is believed to wield considerable clout in the policies of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat. Besides him, Geelani's close aides Tehreek-e-Hurriyat spokesman Ayaz Akbar and Peer Saifullah were arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) from the Valley, officials engaged in the operation said.
The NIA also arrested Shahid-ul-Islam, spokesman of the moderate Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, they said.
The others arrested are Mehrajuddin Kalwal and Nayeem Khan (of the Hurriyat's Geelani faction) and Farooq Ahmed Dar alias 'Bitta Karate', they said.
The houses of those arrested had been raided by NIA sleuths last month.
His arrest comes days after the Enforcement Directorate registered a case of money-laundering against terror groups and separatist organisations operating in Kashmir, including Pakistan-based LeT founder Hafiz Saeed and the Hurriyat Conference, to probe alleged funding received by separatists.
In June, the NIA had carried out raids at more than 14 places in Srinagar, eight in Delhi, and one in Haryana. Among those raided were separatists Ayaz Akbar, Peer Saifullah, Nayeem Khan and Farooq Ahmed Dar alias ‘Bitta Karate’.
The investigation into the findings of separatists leaders was launched after some of them were caught on camera saying that they had received money from Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other sources in Pakistan to fund stone-pelting and violent protests in Jammu and Kashmir.
During its raids last month, the NIA had recovered unaccounted account books, Rs 2 crore in cash and letterheads of banned terror groups including LeT and HM. Bank accounts and lockers revealed during the probe had been frozen. Besides electronic gadgets, phone diaries and documents such as rough receipts and vouchers had been seized from alleged hawala operators, financiers and office bearers of separatist groups. A few thousand Pakistani rupees and currencies belonging to the UAE and Saudi Arabia as well LeT and HM letterheads were also seized.
The NIA is also looking to identify the chain of players behind the financing of terrorist activities, including those who threw stones at security forces, burned down schools and damaged government establishments.