HM Commander Takes The Lid Off Billawar Killings
24 December 2004
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: A Hizbul Mujahideen 'area commander' for Billawar-Bani belt Muzaffar Iqbal alias Umar Mukhtiar, who had earlier worked as 'personal bodyguard' of slain HM 'divisional commander' Shakeel Ansari, has surrendered before police in Kathua district. The Hizbul 'commander' has made important disclosures about the militant attack on a police picket at Lohai Malhar early this month in which three police constables and a Special Police Officer (SPO) were killed. Muzaffar Iqbal alias Umar Mukhtiar son of Mohd Hussain, a resident of Lohai Malhar surrendered before Billawar police along with one AK rifle, three grenades, two AK magazines, 76 rounds, one Hizbul Mujahideen letter pad, one Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and some incriminating documents pertaining to 'jehad'. During his sustained interrogation by police and other security agencies at Billawar and Kathua, Umar Mukhtiar has disclosed that Zubair alias Nadeem (set code 13) and Haq Nawaz alias Munshi Khan (set code 26), both residents of Marmat in Doda district and 'commanders' of Lashkar-e- Toiba had led a group of eight militants, who executed killings of the police personnel. Mukhtiar, quoting from information available with his outfit, said eight militants under the command of Zubair and Haq Nawaz, two dreaded LeT militants operating in Doda for last eight years, along with six other militants including three foreign mercenaries were specially deputed from Doda by an unidentified commander of the LeT 'to teach Kathua police a lesson' for recent surrenders and killings of the militants. He told police that the militants took dinner in a marriage function at village Mathain in Malhar area of Billawar on December 9 night in which the police constables were also present. Later, in the mid-night, they attacked police picket and gunned down the cops after a fierce gun-battle. Four Village Defence Committee (VDC) members were also injured in the attack. Umar Mukhtiar disclosed that LeT militants were specially sent from Doda to execute killings of Kathua cops on the directions of their 'mentors from across the border', who were feeling helpless in infiltrating fresh cadre from Hiranagar sector, a traditional infiltration route for the years together, following surrender of 11 militants, some of whom used to work as guides for the infiltrators and take them to Doda and Udhampur districts. 'The LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen leadership was more disturbed about the surrender of 11 AK rifles to police by the militants. The militants are worried about the weapons than the boys since they were running short of arms due to a check imposed on infiltration on the Line of Control and the International Border in view of fencing and other measures taken by the security forces', Mukhtiar told the interrogators. Mukhtiar had joined militancy in 2001 when he was 23 years old in 2001. He was involved in several subversive activities before he decided to give up the path of violence on being persuaded by his family and some elderly people. He was one of the few 'most trusted lieutenants' of Hizbul Mujahideen 'divisional commander' Shakeel Ansari, who was killed early this year in Srinagar. He had worked as 'personal bodyguard' of Shakeel Ansari. Prior to that he was 'bodyguard' of Ansari's wife Shiasta, who used to stay in a rented house at Habbakadal. She had shifted to Doda after her husband was gunned down by police in an encounter. Mukhtiar was 11th militant to surrender in Kathua since February this year. They include four commanders including a 'launching commander', a 'tehsil commander', a 'deputy district commander' and an 'area commander'. However, none of them had been given benefits under the Government's 'rehabilitation scheme' under which a militant is paid Fixed Deposit Receipts worth Rs 1.50 lakh, which can be encashed after three years, and Rs 2,000 per month. 'If the militants are given benefits under the 'rehabilitation scheme', most of the local militants in the State will surrender, Mukhtiar claimed. He said 13 local militants-four from Basantgarh, seven from Lohai and two from Loang- were still in Pakistan and they were not being allowed to infiltrate to J&K by the Hizbul leadership for the fear of surrender. When contacted, SP Kathua Raghubir Singh declined to comment on the surrender saying the militant has laid down arms in Billawar and was being quizzed there by the security forces. However, Mr Singh admitted that all the surrendered militants hadn't been given benefits under the rehabilitation scheme. 'The militants are being looked after very well. Their contribution in keeping a check on infiltration and militant activities in Billawar tehsil has been recognised by the police', the SP said, adding 'the moment their files are cleared from CID wing, all benefits will be released in their favour'. Moreover, he said, there are certain conditions, which are required to be fulfilled before the monetary benefits are extended to the surrendered militants.