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Hizbul Mujahideen Chief Salahuddin’s Son sent to NIA custody

New Delhi, October 25: A court here on Wednesday sent Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin’s son Syed Shahid, arrested in a six-year-old terror funding case, to NIA custody till November 1.

Shahid, 42, a Jammu and Kashmir government employee, was arrested here on Tuesday after he was called for questioning at the National Investigation Agency (NIA) headquarters.

He was presented before District Judge Poonam Bamba, who during in-camera proceedings, allowed the NIA to quiz Shahid to uncover his terror links.

The NIA has sought the custody on the grounds that it needs to interrogate Shahid to unearth a criminal conspiracy of raising funds by terror organization Hizbul Mujahideen and Shahid’s role in it.

The agency told the court that Shahid was collecting funds from Aijaz Bhat, a Srinagar resident now based in Saudi Arabia and a Hizbul Mujahideen militant, on the direction of his father Salahuddin, who is on the run.

Shahid over the years has been receiving and collecting funds through international wire money transfer from Bhat, an NIA statement said.

The NIA said Shahid was one of Bhat’s several contacts who were in telephonic touch “to receive the money transfer codes”. The money was meant to fund Hizbul Mujahideen’s militant activities in Jammu and Kashmir.

The NIA has seized Shahid’s mobile phone and sent it to a forensic lab for analysis, whose report is awaited.

Shahid, who lives with his family in Soibugh village of J&K’s Budgam district, works as a village agricultural assistant in the state Agriculture Department. His contractual job was confirmed by the government in March this year.

The 2011 terror funding case pertains to terror money sent through hawala channels by militants based in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to Jammu and Kashmir.

The NIA had filed two charge sheets against six accused in the case in 2011. Four of them – Ghulam Mohammed Bhat, one of the closest aides of hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mohammed Sidiq Ganai, Ghulam Jeelani Liloo and Farooq Ahmad Dagga – are currently in Delhi’s Tihar Jail.

Two of the accused, Mohammad Maqbool Pandit and Aijaz Bhat, are on the run and have been declared proclaimed offenders. Pandit, like Aijaz Bhat, has been an active Hizbul Mujahideen militant and is currently based in Pakistan.

Aijaz Bhat, according to NIA records, received arms training with the Hizbul Mujahideen in Pakistan-administered Kashmir in the early 1990s.

He never returned to Srinagar and began working for the militant group in Pakistan. He is said to have stayed in Sialkot before shifting to Saudi Arabia for generating funds for the group’s activities in Jammu and Kashmir.

An NIA official said the agency, through phone records, found that he was in touch with Ghulam Mohammed Bhat, a Srinagar-based lawyer, in 2011.

According to NIA, the lawyer separatist had procured over Rs 4.50 crore from Pakistan through hawala channels within three years after 2008 for funding militant activities in the Kashmir Valley.

Ghulam Mohammed Bhat, Ganai, Liloo and Dagga were arrested on January 22, 2011, and Rs 21.20 lakh were recovered from them.

After their arrest, Aijaz Bhat used to send money to Shahid. The Hizbul founder’s son, according to an NIA official, received at least four installments of money in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

Shahid is the third son of Salahuddin, who also heads the United Jihad Council, the amalgam of Kashmir militant groups based in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan.

Salahuddin unsuccessfully fought the 1987 Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir. He then crossed over to Pakistan and founded the Hizbul Mujahideen — the largest militant group in Jammu and Kasmir. Salahuddin has five sons and two daughters, who are all employed by the state government.

Shahid’s arrest — it is the first time any member of Salahuddin’s family has been arrested — comes a day after Home Minister Rajnath Singh announced the decision to start a dialogue process in Jammu and Kashmir and named former Intelligence Bureau Director Dineshwar Sharma to talk to all stakeholders. (IANS)

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