Widening its probe in the terror funding case in the Kashmir Valley, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Sunday raided the office and residence of a lawyer linked to hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani on suspicion of routing funds to separatists from their Pakistan-based handlers. The NIA carried out the raids at the office and residence of Devinder Singh Behl, a member of legal cell of Hurriyat and a "close associate" of Geelani. Behl is also the chairman of Jammu and Kashmir Social Peace Forum (JKSPF), a constituent of Tehreek-e-Hurriayat headed by Geelani. He has been detained by the probe agency for questioning in the case related to terror funding in the Valley.
"The NIA is investigating his role as a courier as he is suspected to be involved in routing funds to separatist leaders from Pakistan-based handlers," the spokesman said. Behl also regularly attends the funeral processions of militants, the anti-terror probe agency said.
Four mobile phones, one tablet and other electronic devices were seized during the raid. ANI reported that incriminating documents and financial papers were also recovered from Behl's residence.
In a related development, the NIA also issued summon to Naseem, the second son of Geelani, who heads separatist conglomerate Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, to appear before the agency on Wednesday. Earlier, the NIA had issued summons to Geelani's elder son Nayeem, asking him to appear before it for questioning tomorrow in connection with its probe in the terror funding case which names Pakistan-based chief of Jamaat-ul-Dawah, the front of another proscribed outfit Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT), Hafiz Saeed, as an accused.
The NIA has also named separatist organisations such as the Hurriyat Conference (factions led by Geelani and Mirwaiz Farooq), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and all-woman outfit Dukhtaran-e-Millat in its FIR.
A surgeon by profession, Nayeem had returned from Pakistan in 2010 after spending 11 years there. He is tipped as the natural successor to the Geelani-led Tehrek-e-Hurriyat, a separatist conglomerate comprising hardline groups.
Geelani's son-in-law Altaf Ahmed Shah alias Altaf Fantoosh has already been arrested by the NIA and was being interrogated in the same case. Six other separatist leaders are also on remand with the NIA for custodial interrogation in this case.
Geelani's close aides Ayaz Akbar, who is also the spokesman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, and Peer Saifullah were arrested by the NIA from the Valley last week.
Shahid-ul-Islam, spokesman of the moderate Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Mehrajuddin Kalwal, Nayeem Khan (of the Hurriyat's Geelani faction) and Farooq Ahmed Dar alias 'Bitta Karate' have also been arrested. All of them have been remanded to 10 days of NIA custody.
The NIA had registered a case on May 30 against the separatist and secessionist leaders, including members of the Hurriyat Conference, who have been acting in connivance with active militants of the HM, Dukhtaran-e-Millat, LeT, other outfits and gangs.
The case was registered for raising, receiving and collecting funds through various illegal means, including hawala, for funding separatist and terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir and for causing disruption in the Kashmir Valley by way of pelting security forces with stones, burning schools, damaging public property and waging war against India.
In pursuance of this case, the NIA had conducted widespread searches on the suspected persons in Jammu and Kashmir, Delhi and Haryana and incriminating documents, electronic devices, cash and other valuables worth crore of rupees were unearthed.
For the the first time since the rise of militancy in Kashmir in the early 1990s, a central probe agency had carried out raids in connection with the funding of separatists and carried out arrests.