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NIA raids 14 hideouts in J&K, Punjab in cyber-terror case linked to Pakistani handlers

File Photo of National Investigation Agency (Photo: IANS)

Srinagar: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has conducted a chain of raids on 14 locations in six districts of Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab in connection with an investigation into a Pakistan-linked cyber-terror case and seized incriminating evidence from these hideouts.

Officials said that the NIA had taken suo motu cognizance of some terror-related activities and filed a case in June 2022 against over-ground workers and cadres of various proscribed outfits, and their affiliates and off-shoots, who were operating under various pseudonyms on the commands of their Pakistani commanders and handlers.

In a follow-up operation on Tuesday, searches were conducted simultaneously at 14 locations in Srinagar, Baramulla, Pulwama, Anantnag, Budgam and Kathua districts of Jammu and Kashmir and Fatehgarh Sahib in Punjab.

The case relates to a terror conspiracy hatched by Pakistan-based commanders of designated terror organisations to radicalise the youths of Jammu and Kashmir and target members of the minority communities, security personnel and religious events and activities. The accused were also found involved in spreading terror in J&K over cyber-space.

“During the investigation, 12 suspects were identified who were in touch with different Pakistan-based handlers. Searches were conducted at 11 locations belonging to these suspects across J&K in the districts of Kulgam, Shopian, Pulwama, Anantnag and 1 location in Fatehgarh Sahib, Punjab. Digital devices and incriminating material were seized from these locations yesterday. Further investigations in the case are in progress”, said an agency spokesperson.

Preliminary searches conducted in 2022 led to seizure of digital devices which were analysed forensically. Tuesday’s searches, according to officials, are based on the leads obtained in the initial searches.

In the South Kashmir district of Pulwama, the NIA team, escorted by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Jammu and Kashmir Police, raided the residence of one Zeeshan Bhat son of Mohammad Altaf Bhat of Nilora and Arif Malik son of Ghulam Hassan Malik of Litter.

Reports, not immediately confirmed by the NIA, said that Zeeshan aka Sartaj had been operating as the administrator of a local social media portal. He has been taken into custody for sustained interrogation. Sources said that another person was picked up from the 90-Foot Road area of Soura. He was later let off after questioning. Another person was rounded up from Anantnag and he too was let off after some questioning.