Ex-militants Turning Up As Hired Guns In Valley20 March 2011
The Indian Express
Srinagar: When a noted businessman in north Kashmir’s Kreeri township was killed in broad daylight by unknown gunmen last month, it surprised the security establishment as there was no apparent reason for the murder and there were no militants active in the area. What they discovered during the course of the probe, however, was startling: that in more and more cases in Kashmir, assassins were being hired to settle personal scores, with the attacks passed off as perpetrated by militants. It helps that the assassins are often former militants, now working as “overground” workers, police sources or special police officials. The killing of businessman Nazir Ahmad Lone was reportedly orchestrated by one of his local competitors, who is believed to have hired a former overground militant and police source, Mudasir Nazir, for all of Rs 25,000. Nazir in turn engaged “a small group of released militants who committed the crime and later rejoined militant ranks once police cracked the case and identified them”. The police also believe the same group had been approached by a former militant commander “to kill 16 prominent citizens who had played a pro-police role during the summer agitation last year, ahead of the panchayat polls across Pattan-Nihalpora area”. Some time ago, police had arrested the wife of an engineer for plotting her husband’s murder. According to police, she had hired a former militant turned overground worker and a Special Police Official to carry out the murder. IGP, Kashmir zone, S M Sahai told The Sunday Express that this trend reflects criminalisation of society, where the presence of freely available weapons for hire has made murder an easy tool to settle personal scores. The police’s preliminary probe report in the Lone killing shows that their suspicions were first sparked by the empty cartridges found at the spot in Kreeri market where the incident happened on February 28. “The catridges were rusted, inferring that it was some old arms and ammunition..., pointing a finger towards released militants; then as the gunmen were without masks when they shot Lone..., this showed that the assassin was not from the locality and was an expert.” When the police started questioning the overground workers and released militants, the assailants in desperation sent a threatening letter to witnesses. “The letter was seized and... the letterhead was of Tehreeq-ul-Mujahideen, which is no longer an active (militant) organisation,” the police report says. Police also found that the person from whom the letter allegedly originated, Bashir Ahmad Bukhari, was an overground worker earlier. His cellphone records showed during the time of the killing, he made “an exceptionally high number of phone calls”. During interrogation, Bukhari disclosed that two modules of militants who had given up militancy only to return to it now had been set up in Kreeri and Palhallan areas. The same group, including Hilal Ahmad Pala who leads the Kreeri module, were behind Lone’s killing. Both Pala and the other main accused, Mudasir Nazir, are absconding. Bukhari’s interrogation also led police to Ashraf Mir of Kalantra, from whose shop the two pistols allegedly used in Lone’s murder were recovered.