New Delhi: The National Investigation Agency – India’s counter-terrorism force – will take over the probe into the targeted killing of 11 civilians in Jammu and Kashmir this month, sources said Tuesday morning.
The NIA has been mandated by the Home Ministry to investigate the larger conspiracy behind the killings, and is initially expected to take over four cases from J&K Police.
The most recent killings took place on Sunday, when two labourers from Bihar – Raja Rishidev and Yogendra Rishidev – were shot dead by terrorists in Wanpoh in Kulgam district. A third was injured.
Their deaths came a day after a golgappa seller, also from Bihar, and a carpenter from Uttar Pradesh were shot dead in the Valley. The golgappa seller, Arbind Kumar Sah, was shot at from point-blank range in Srinagar and the carpenter, Sagir Ahmad, was killed in Pulwama, police said.
Other victims have included 70-year-old Makhan Lal Bindroo, a prominent member of the Kashmiri Pandit community and the owner of a pharmacy in Srinagar, who was one of three people killed on October 5 – when this wave of attacks started.
The others killed on the day were Mohammad Shafi Lone, a taxi driver in Bandipore district, and Virender Paswan, a street food vendor who also came to J&K from Bihar.
Two days later, on October 7, two teachers at a government school in Srinagar were shot dead – Supunder Kaur and Deepak Chand. They were from Kashmir’s minority Sikh and Hindu communities.
Of those killed so far, five are from other states and there appears to be no particular community that has been targeted; Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs are among those killed.
Either way, the killings have sparked fear in the Valley, prompting an exodus of Kashmiri Pandit families from transit camps. Dozens of families, including those of government employees who returned after getting jobs under the Prime Minister’s special scheme, have left.
Migrant labourers and workers from other states have also begun leaving J&K; the neighbour of one of those killed told NDTV he was leaving because he was scared for his family’s safety.
Security forces have launched a massive crackdown and have detained about 900 people for alleged links to separatist outfits like the banned Jamaat-e-Islami. Police have also attributed some attacks to ‘The Resistance Front” – believed to an offshoot of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Anti-terror operations have also been intensified, with two terrorists, including a Lashkar commander, killed in Pulwama district on Saturday. The day before, police said two terrorists allegedly involved in the killing of two civilians and a cop were killed in back-to-back encounters.
Last week police said they had killed the terrorist involved in the killing of the cab driver.
The spate of attacks has come at a time when the army is engaged in one of its longest and toughest anti-terrorist operations in the Poonch district; nine Indian soldiers have been killed in such fierce fighting that Army and police sources suspect they may have been trained by Pakistani commandos.