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Senior J&K Police officer arrested along with 2 terrorists whom he was ferrying

Srinagar: A senior Jammu and Kashmir police officer, posted with a strategic department at the airport, was arrested on Saturday for the "heinous crime" of ferrying a lawyer and two terrorists who were being allegedly taken out of Kashmir valley for a possible terror strike, a senior police officer said on Sunday.

In a swift operation, police arrested Deputy Superintendent of Police Davinder Singh at Mir Bazar in Kulgam district along with terrorists of the banned Hizbul Mujaideen -- Naveed Baba who was its district commander, and Altaf -- besides an unidentified lawyer who was working as overground worker for terror outfits.

Terming this as an exceptional case where a senior police officer was involved in such a crime, Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) Vijay Kumar told reporters that he would be dealt as per the law and the way the police has been treating other terrorists. "It is a heinous crime and he will be treated at par with other terrorists," Kumar said, adding that all three were being subjected to intense questioning by a joint team from central security agencies as well as the police.

Singh, who was in line for a promotion as superintendent of police later this month, was posted at the anti-hijacking unit at the Srinagar airport. He was under the radar of the police when the plan was being hatched for smuggling out the terrorists, an official said on the condition of anonymity.

Singh's name had also surfaced during investigations for the 2001 Parliament attack when convict Afzal Guru had alleged his role. The probe, however, was in Singh's favour.

The IGP said there was no record of the arrested police officer's involvement in the Parliament attack case as was being reported in a section of the media. "We have no such records and I have no information, but we will ask him about this," he said. To a question about whether his posting at the airport was a security breach as the officer was also seen with the envoys of various countries who visited the valley earlier last year, Kumar said the police had no information about the officer's involvement till Saturday.

"He was on duty and how could we have stopped him from that as we had no information about his involvement in anything," he said.

While refusing to divulge details of the probe so far, Kumar said that after the news spread about their detention on the Jammu-Srinagar national highway in south Kashmir on Saturday, some militants escaped from a hideout in Shopian.

One of the arrested militants Naveed Baba, who was a police constable and deserted the force in 2017 to join the Hizbul Mujahideen, has been involved in cases of killing of police personnel and civilians, the IGP told a press conference here.

"The police officer (Singh) has worked on several anti-militancy operations. But the circumstances under which he was arrested yesterday when he was driving the car with militants towards Jammu is a heinous crime. That is why he is being treated at par with the militants," the IGP said.

"He has been arrested, has been brought under remand and his interrogation is on. The investigation is at an initial stage and I cannot share anything further. The probe is on and we have got several leads which we will not like to share as the operation is on. When this news spread yesterday, some militants escaped from a hideout in Shopian which was eight feet under the ground. It had food items among other things stored there," he said.

Giving details of Saturday's operation, Kumar said the Shopian Superintendent of Police had got a specific intelligence input that two militants were travelling in a vehicle on the national highway towards Jammu.

"The SP Shopian informed me and I directed DIG south Kashmir and a naka was laid. The car was searched and two wanted militants were there. A deputy superintendent of police was also there along with a resident who is an advocate and a listed OGW (overground worker) in our records," he said.

The IGP said the militants and the officer were interrogated by the police and then all agencies, including intelligence agencies IB and RAW, working in the valley.

"I called all the security forces and agencies for a joint interrogation which is still going on. One of the militants has been identified as a top commander Naveed who was a police constable in 2017 and had decamped with four rifles from Budgam. He has been involved in police and civilian killings and threatening orchardists. 17 FIRs have been registered against him. He is the district commander of Shopian and 2IC of HM commander Riyaz Naikoo," Kumar said.

He said the case has been registered into the incident under the Unlawful Activities Act and the Arms Act.

Asked if any recovery has been made from the officer's residence, Kumar said some recoveries have been made. "It is a matter of investigation and the recovery has been brought into the case FIR," he said.

On whether his involvement with militants was a bigger security risk as the officer was posted in the anti-hijacking unit of the police at the Srinagar airport, the IGP said, "The joint interrogation is on in which all agencies, security forces, police, IB, RAW, CID, all are involved and that has been done as this is a sensitive matter and so that no loopholes are there."

He said the owner of the vehicle is being verified.

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