How A Phone Call Landed ‘militant Cop’ In Police Trap

How A Phone Call Landed ‘militant Cop’ In Police Trap

24 August 2012
Rising Kashmir
Wasim Khalid

Srinagar: It was just one mobile phone call to a local news agency which helped J&K police solve 18 militancy related cases in Srinagar over a period of two years. The case has also unveiled interesting story of Personal Security Officer of SP Bandipora who worked under the pseudonym - Omar Mukhtar- the Libyan revolutionary who fought against Italian colonization of his country. The case chronology also reveals how he managed to work right under the nose of police. Police sources associated with the investigation said they were looking for a 'moulvi sahab with long flowing brown beard' from past many months. Police was probing his links with a module of Hizbul Mujahideen functioning in Ganderbal district. Sources said the HM module used to strike in Srinagar and return to Ganderbal. Mobile phones of several members of this module were put on monitoring. One day they called a man who identified himself as Omar Mukhtar on the phone. The module members asked him to meet at Hazratbal at a designated place. Subsequently, a team of Special Operation Group (SOG) was dispatched and they found a man with flowing beard whom they referred to as moulvi sahab. When the team was about to catch the moulvi sahib, one officer decided not to arrest any of them and instead take a photograph to keep a record of him. 'Instead we followed his car. Later he got disappeared in Koker Bazar area of Srinagar. We were still not sure whether this moulvi sahib was the same man (Omar Mukhtar) whom we heard on phone,' said an officer associated with the case. Even as the Ganderabal HM module was busted, police continued to look for the moulvi sahib. Meanwhile, the militant attacks continued to take place in Srinagar. 'It seemed almost impossible to solve the cases. There were no leads, no interceptions, nothing,' the official said. One day a caller identifying himself as Omar Mukhtar called CNS news agency and claimed responsibility for the killing of retired Dy. SP Abdul Hamid Bhat. 'It was the first time the module called from a mobile phone. Otherwise, they used only landlines and remained untraced. We were alerted since we were after this name Omar Mukhtar,' the official said. Police contacted the vendor who had sold the mobile SIM to the caller. 'He (the vendor) remembered the man as he had come several times regarding the problem with the SIM. We had already the picture of moulvi sahab. The vendor instantly identified him of taking the SIM.' When the details were traced, the SIM card holder turned out to be a Ladakhi man who was known to moulvi sahab. 'He was his colleague. When we started searching the call details of the number we found Bandipora SP’s number. We were surprised,' the official said. 'When we enquired from the SP, he said he has received two calls from the number.' The police officials dialed another number from the phone. This time the person happened to be a civilian. 'He confirmed he knew moulvi sahab and that he was from Batamallo area. We showed him the photograph and he instantly identified him,' the official said. 'We followed another lead which established moulvi sahib to be the PSO of SP Bandipora.' The police mailed the photograph to the SP who also identified him. The SP told the investigating team that his SPO lived in Batamallo. 'We got to know the full address of moulvi sahib from his battalion head. On Eid day, following a plan, we asked his battalion commander to put him on duty at Sonwar shrine. However, he was nowhere to be seen at his assigned place.' The police team got worried and called his higher-ups. 'It was found that he was actually offering prayers at TRC mosque. His officers called him to the place of duty. As soon as he reached there he was detained.' The moulvi sahib turned out to be Abdul Rashid Shigan alias Omar Mukhtar, a resident of Lachamanpora Batamallo. During interrogation he revealed the name of another militant Imitiyaz Ahmad Gojri alias Amir, a resident of Nowakadal Tengpora Srinagar, who too was arrested. The duo never talked on mobile phone with each other. They used to meet in mosques on Fridays and chalk out plan for the week. They would carry out attacks and claim responsibility through press releases and on phone to news agencies. 'It was one mistake which proved lethal for them,' the official said. Police officials claim that he would procure arms from militant groups like Hizbul Mujahideen. Shigan was previously selected as a trainee constable but was suspended from police department while undergoing basic training following his alleged involvement in militant activities. Later, he was reinstated on court orders. In the past 18 months, according to police, the two-men module carried out 13 major attacks without any handlers from across the border or directions from any militant outfit. The attacks left four policemen, including a retired police officer, dead in targeted killings. 'Shigan has taken responsibility of all the attacks,' the official said. 'However, he is yet to yield.'