The National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday arrested seven prominent Kashmiri separatists on charges of receiving funds from Pakistan to sponsor terrorist activities and stone-pelting protests in the Kashmir Valley.
Speaking to IANS, Jammu and Kashmir Police sources in Srinagar and an NIA official in Delhi identified the seven as Nayeem Khan, Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate, Altaf Ahmad Shah, Shahid-ul-Islam, Ayaz Akbar, Peer Saifullah and Raja Mehrajuddin Kalwal.
Shah is the son-in-law of hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani, who advocates Jammu and Kashmir's merger with Pakistan, and Islam is a close aide of moderate Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. Akbar is the spokesperson for the Geelani-led Hurriyat.
Karate was arrested from Delhi and the others from Srinagar. The six would be taken to Delhi, an NIA official said.
While New Delhi has for decades accused Islamabad of funding, arming and training Kashmiri separatists, it is the first time so many senior members of the Hurriyat Conference have been arrested on charges of receiving money from Pakistan.
The Geelani-led Hurriyat suspended Nayeem Khan after he confessed in a TV sting operation that Hurriyat leaders had been receiving funds from Pakistan for subversive activities in the Kashmir Valley.
The NIA had questioned the arrested persons after the May 2017 expose. Shah was questioned earlier in Delhi for nearly two weeks.
In June, the NIA conducted raids in Srinagar, Jammu, Delhi and Haryana and reportedly seized incriminating evidence against those involved in receiving, acting as intermediaries and final beneficiaries of funds coming from Pakistan.
The NIA FIR names Hafeez Saeed, the Pakistan-based chief of Jamaat-ul Dawah, the front of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), as an accused besides organisations such as the Hurriyat Conference, Hizbul Mujahideen and Dukhtaran-e-Milat.
During the raids, the NIA had recovered unaccounted account books, Rs 2 crore in cash and letterheads of banned terrorist groups including LeT and Hizbul.
The NIA also seized property-related documents, pen drives, laptops, mobile phones, phone diaries, receipts and vouchers from the residences showing hawala payments.