Srinagar: The National Investigation Agency (NIA) is likely to take over the probe into the Banihal car blast case, a senior agency official told ThePrint Monday.
The development comes after the Jammu and Kashmir Police arrested a local Kashmiri Monday in connection with the car blast that took place near a moving Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Banihal area of Srinagar-Jammu highway last week.
“We are associated with the case but haven’t taken over the investigation yet. We are looking forward to probe the incident as initial reports suggest that the blast might help us to uncover new areas in militancy,” said a senior NIA official who didn’t wish to be named.
On Monday, Owais Ahmed Malik, a resident of Arwani area in Bijbehara region of south Kashmir, was taken into custody in connection with the case. Malik, who is a graduate in business administration, was part of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror group before he moved to Hizbul Mujahideen.
According to officials privy to the case, authorities concerned had narrowed down the location of Malik, who is accused of driving a Santro car that exploded near the blast site and was on the run ever since.
The incident comes nearly two months after JeM’s Adil Ahmed Dar triggered a car bomb in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district killing 40 CRPF personnel.
The Jammu and Kashmir police is yet to make a statement about Malik’s arrest.
ThePrint reached police officials in Jammu for a comment but there was no response till the time of publishing this report. It will be updated if they respond.
According to J&K police officials, the “blast” Friday is believed to be the result of a gas cylinder explosion.
A senior CRPF official said “preliminary investigations suggest the incident was an attempted suicide bombing”.
Upon searching the vehicle, local police had claimed to have recovered a detonator, gelatin, urea, petrol bottles, two LPG cylinders and a two-page note in which Malik had narrated his intention of carrying out a suicide attack.
Officials said that an individual was seen by witnesses fleeing the Santro car when the vehicle caught fire.
The recovered material is used for building an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) to cause a blast but the same was not assembled yet, said the officials.
In a 17-minute audio recording released on social media after the Pulwama attack, Hizbul Mujahideen’s operational commander Riyaz Naikoo had warned of carrying out suicide attacks.
The Banihal incident also comes close on the heels of the release of a video address by Hizbul Mujahideen’s Pakistan-based head Syed Salahuddin, who is also the chief of United Jihad Council (UJC), a grouping of various terror organisations.
Salahuddin in his address had warned of similar attacks. He also criticised Pakistan of being soft on India and the decision to ban terror outfits in the country. He said a change in Pakistan’s Kashmir policy will end in destablising the country.
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