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Terror syndicate that issued death threats to Kashmir journalists busted

The Jammu and Kashmir Police claimed to have busted a dreaded terror syndicate indulging in vilification and character assassination of Kashmir-based journalists and civil society members like senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari and advocate Babar Qadri who were subsequently shot dead in two separate terrorist attacks in Srinagar (Pic: Courtesy bbc.com)

In a remarkable achievement, the Jammu and Kashmir Police on Sunday claimed to have busted a dreaded terror syndicate indulging in vilification and character assassination of Kashmir-based journalists and civil society members. Those vilified by the syndicate included senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari and advocate Babar Qadri who were subsequently shot dead in two separate terrorist attacks in Srinagar.

Authoritative sources disclosed that Secretary of Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Sofi Mohammad Akbar of Arihal, Pulwama, his daughter Nazish Rehmani and son Tabish Rehmani, have been identified as the key characters of the terror syndicate. All the three have been arrested and a large quantity of digital devices and other evidences of their criminal involvement has been seized.

According to the official sources associated with the investigation, Sofi had joined militancy and taken guerrilla training in PoK in early 1990s. After his return he worked as a terrorist with different organisations and got himself and all of his four brothers adjusted in businesses and government employment. He managed to get himself appointed as a clerk in Srinagar Municipal Corporation and he was subsequently promoted to the senior position of Secretary.

Officials investigating the case said that they were enquiring how Police and CID had issued clearance in favour of this Pak-trained militant for his appointment in government service and how successive governments, particularly Mayors and Commissioners, had not only shielded him but also elevated him to senior ranks.

On at least one occasion, Sofi was arrested by J&K Vigilance Organisation in connection with issuance of building permission to a restaurant and a hotel fraudulently showing the proposed structures in a commercial zone instead of the actual residential zone. He was facing a large number of charges of issuing and manipulating building permissions in brazen violation of laws and rules, allegedly for pecuniary considerations.

While Sofi’s daughter Nazish has reportedly completed her bachelors of law from Jammu, her brother Tabish, according to the sources, has done B Tech in Srinagar. Sources said that Nazish had been engaged to one Javed Khalid of Poonch. While Sofi was arrested from his separate residence in Rajbagh, Srinagar, Nazish and Tabish were arrested from their separate house in Sanat Nagar, a posh neighbourhood in Srinagar. Javed Khalid, whose marriage with Nazish was reportedly scheduled on 25 July, was arrested from Poonch.

Sources said that the fifth member of the terror syndicate was one Peerzada Rakib Makhdoomi of Batpora Hazratbal, Srinagar, who was reportedly working as a journalist and publishing a local newspaper. He has been active on Twitter and two days back he had posted a tweet in praise of the PDP President and the former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.

Sources said that the Police had laid hands on a wide network of “white collar terrorists engaged for profiling, character assassination and killings of the journalists, government officials, activists and NGO operators perceived to be acting against the interests of Kashmir’s separatist movement”. “More arrests are likely in the near future. We are also hopeful of a major breakthrough in some high profile assassinations including that of the journalist Shujaat Bukhari and advocate and TV panellist Babar Qadri besides a businessman Satpal Nischal”, said an officer.

“In a J&K wide operation, houses and properties at multiple locations including Sanat Nagar and Raj Bagh in Srinagar, Batpura in Hazratbal, Poonch, Jammu and Hawal in Pulwama belonging to five persons were searched. Armed with search warrants granted by a competent court of law, police parties carried out searches of the suspect premises and recovered a large amount of cell phones, digital storage devices and computing platforms. In one house alone, 32 mobile phones, one tablet, two laptops, four hard disk storage devices, seven memory cards and one dongle were seized”, said a statement issued by the J&K Police.

“Five persons arrested include Nazish Yasrab Rehmani and Tabish Akbar Rehmani from Sanat Nagar, Sofi Md Akbar from Rajbagh, Peerzada Raqif Makhdoomi from Batpora Hazratbal and Javed Khalid from Poonch”, it added.

“It is worth mentioning that kashmirfight.wordpress.com was being run by a white collar terrorist syndicate whose task was to prepare a strategic hit list of Government officers, journalists, social activists, lawyers, political functionaries who were assessed by the syndicate to be responsible for Harming the overarching objectives of furthering and sustaining the Pakistani supported terrorist programme with the eventual aim of secession of Jammu and Kashmir from the Indian union and its eventual annexation with Pakistan”, the J&K Police statement added.

“With the arrest of the kingpins and the discovery of a huge number of digital devices and the analysis of the data therein, it is expected that the ultimate plans behind the murder of Journalist Shujaat Bukhari, advocate Babar Qadri and businessman Satpal Nischal would come to the fore. It may be recalled that the blog site kashmirfight.wordpress.com had designed a modus operandi wherein the name of the victim was first published, he was profiled giving detailed justification as to how and why he is a legitimate target for the terrorists and subsequently his actual execution by the terrorists”, the Police statement concluded.