September 2018 News

Kashmir Rifle Theft Case Turns Murkier

29 September 2018
The Hindu
Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar: As the police on Saturday questioned seven policemen whose service rifles were stolen by a special police officer (SPO) in the high-security Jawahar Nagar, which houses politicians, here, it turned out that the suspect was in touch with a militant outfit across the Line of Control. 'The policeman was already connected with militants across the border,' Director-General of Police Dilbagh Singh said. He said 'a fast-track investigation' had been started into the biggest-ever weapons heist in Srinagar this year. 'Action will be taken against the policemen for dereliction of duty,' said Mr. Singh as he hinted at major leads in the case. A sum of ?2 lakh was announced as reward for information leading to the capture of the SPO. According to the police, the personal security officer of Ajaz Ahmad Mir, the Peoples Democratic Party MLA from the Wachi constituency, approached the Rajbagh police station in Srinagar on Friday and said the weapons of seven personal security officers were missing from the residence of the MLA at Jawahar Nagar. 'One pistol, the licensed personal weapon of Mr. Mir, was also missing,' said the police. The police zeroed in on SPO Adil Bashir Sheikh, 24, from Shopian's Zainpora area for his role in the heist, forcing security agencies to beef up security in Srinagar and south Kashmir. He belonged to the MLA's village and had gained entry to the residential quarters on the pretext of cleaning the rooms. The policeman was engaged as an SPO on March 11, 2017. The MLA was in Jammu at the time of the incident. His statement in the case has been recorded. The police also questioned the SPOs and the driver of the MLA. Initial reports suggest the SPO was working as a cook and worked alone. 'The incident has happened many days ago. A PSO had resumed duties recently and found the weapons missing,' said an official. The residential quarter of the legislator has been sealed for collecting the clues. In a worrying trend, over 20 automatic service rifles were stolen by militants this year, an increase from 2017 when fewer than 10 service rifles were stolen or snatched in the Valley. The police this year issued new standard operating procedures for the guards to avoid weapons snatching, including avoiding use of mobile phones on the duty. In the past, a policeman guarding PDP leader Altaf Bukhari stole two rifles and joined militant ranks in 2015. In 2016, another policeman decamped with four rifles from the residence of a police officer in south Kashmir.