J&K police chief says reports are being verified; incidents come in the wake of ‘threat’ by Hizbul Mujahideen commander, asking local cops to resign.
New Delhi: Ten people — all relatives of police personnel — have allegedly been kidnapped by militants from three districts in south Kashmir since Wednesday evening.
Jammu and Kashmir director general of police Shesh Paul Vaid said that police are still verifying the nature of these abductions. “We have received reports about six to seven abductions so far. We are in the process of verifying these reports,” Vaid told ThePrint.
When asked about the reason behind these kidnappings, Vaid said he can’t say anything at the moment.
Local security and media sources, however, put the number at 10.
The kidnappings are seen as retaliation of police crackdown on militants.
Hours after gunmen shot dead four policemen in Shopian, the state police had Wednesday evening raided the houses of at least two top militants, including the one belonging to Hizbul Mujahideen’s chief of operations in Kashmir, Riyaz Naikoo, in Pulwama district.
Spate of kidnappings
Sources said the militants kidnapped Zubair Ahmad Bhat, son of a policeman Mohammad Maqbool Bhat, from Arwani area of Kulgam district Thursday evening.
Around the same time, they allegedly kidnapped Arif Ahmed Sankar, brother of station house officer Nazir Ahmed Sankar from Arwani; Faizan Ahmad Makro, son of policeman Bashir Ahmed Makro from Kharpora, Kulgam; Sumar Ahmad Rather, son of policeman Abdul Salam Rather from Yaripora, Kulgam; and Gowhar Ahmad Malik, brother of a deputy superintendent of police, Katapora, Kulgam.
The other victims included Yasir Ahmed Bhat, son of a police officer at Watho, Shopian, Nasir Ahmed from Mindora; and Shabir Ahmed Zargar of Kangan, Tral in Pulwama district. The latter two are also relatives of policemen.
A day before, militants had kidnapped Asif Ahmed Rather, son of a local policeman Rafiq Ahmed Rather from Pinglish, Tral.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti said the victimising the families on both sides — militants and security forces — was condemnable.
“Militants and forces victimising each other’s families is highly condemnable and marks a new low in our situation. Families shouldn’t become casualties and made to suffer for something they have little control over,” Mufti tweeted Friday morning.
Reacting to the kidnapping reports, former chief minister and National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah said that the situation is very “worrying”.
“This is a very worrying reflection of the situation in the valley. What’s worse is the selective outrage – people/leaders who are so vocal about alleged security force excesses are silent about these abductions,” he tweeted.
The conflict between police and militants is not new in the Valley. At least 30 policemen were killed in this year alone.
The security forces have declared a high alert across the south Kashmir where all these kidnapping have taken place in the past 24 hours.
Sources said, the authorities have also decided to launch a massive manhunt in the militancy-infested areas.
A threat note written in Urdu has asked the local policemen to resign or die. “If any policeman loves his life, he must resign or get ready to die. This is just a trailer to show them what we are capable of doing. We can also turn the lives of your families into hell…,” reads the note, tweeted by Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Riyaz Naikoo. However, the authenticity of this note could not be verified.
In the threat tweet, Naikoo has tried to ridicule the DGP by saying, “Operation is on. Well done, boys.” This is a signature style of tweeting by the DGP during any encounter in the Valley.
A video had surfaced Monday, alleging that the house of a militant, Waris Malik alias Abu Jibran at Arwani, near Bijbihara, Anantnag had been vandalised by security forces. Families of some militants also alleged harassment by security personnel.
Following this, Lashkar-e-Taiba chief in Kashmir Naveed Jutt released an audio saying that police raid on houses of militants will have consequences.
Police sources say the current phase of militancy in the Valley is marked by a clear shift in how security personnel are targeted. The policemen who have become easy targets are mainly those who live in the interiors of Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian.
“They are doing tit-for-tat — if you go after our families, we will come after yours. If you engage in encounters, we will kill you,” a source told ThePrint.