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Traders in Amritsar, Jammu held for 'funding' Lashkar militants

Traders in Amritsar, Jammu held for 'funding' Lashkar militants

Author: Express News Service
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: October 8, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/526570/

Police in Jammu and Kashmir have busted a hawala racket involving traders and businessmen in Punjab and Jammu who allegedly funnel funds to Lashkar-e-Toiba militants in the Kashmir Valley - and get huge cuts in return.

There have been such arrests in the past as well but this is the first time that traders from outside the Valley have been allegedly involved in such funding.

Sources confirmed to The Indian Express that four businessmen were arrested during raids after an alleged conduit was picked up handing over cash to an "overground worker (OGW)" in Banihal. An OGW is an unarmed guide and handler to militants.

Police said militants are taking advantage of the absence of legal banking facilities for trade across the Line of Control - it currently runs on a barter system.

Sources said police put Budgam resident and businessman Mushtaq Ahmad under surveillance for a year and trapped him recently when he was handing over Rs 10 lakh to an OGW identified as Abdullah. Both were arrested.

"Mushtaq Ahmad set up the shop in a plush Srinagar locality as a front and most of the time, it remained shut," a police officer investigating the case said. "Once we searched the shop, we found grenades there."

Police said the modus operandi was simple: A Jammu-based businessman Suraj Singh and a Kashmiri trader from Kulgam set up companies which would receive goods from across the LoC via the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road and Chakada Bagh in Poonch. These goods were sent to two Amritsar-based businessmen identified as Vipin Kumar and Sanjeev.

Police said these two Amritsar businessmen - who have been arrested along with Suraj Singh while the Kulgam-based trader is on the run - would send the cash directly to Mushtaq, who would funnel it to militants.

Police said the businessmen got huge cuts, sometimes up to 40 per cent.

Sources said the Kulgam-based Kashmiri trader's son is a militant now based in Pakistan and a crucial link in the racket. "Mushtaq (also) went to Pakistan earlier this year and we are investigating that angle too," a police officer said.

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