J&K on alert after IAF strikes, NIA raids separatists’ houses

February 26, 2019 02:04 pm | Updated February 27, 2019 07:32 am IST - Srinagar

Security forces fire tear gas shells to disperse a group of protesters who threw stones on them during a protest against the NIA raids at the premises of separatist leaders, in Srinagar, on Tuesday.

Security forces fire tear gas shells to disperse a group of protesters who threw stones on them during a protest against the NIA raids at the premises of separatist leaders, in Srinagar, on Tuesday.

The J&K government appealed for calm on Tuesday as many departments in the State were put on a general alert in the wake of the Indian Air Force’s pre-dawn cross-border strikes at a training camp of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) in Balakot in Pakistan.

Separately, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) conducted searches at the residences of seven separatist leaders in Srinagar.

The NIA’s searches, which commenced early on Tuesday morning, were simultaneously conducted at the homes of Hurriyat chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, JKLF chief Yasin Malik, Tehreek-e-Hurriyat leader Ashraf Sehrai, Shabir Shah, Masarat Aalam Butt, Syed Naseem Geelani (son of Syed Ali Shah Geelani) and Zaffar Akbar Bhat.

“The NIA teams recovered incriminating documents, including property papers, financial transactions receipts and bank account details,” the NIA said in a statement. “Electronic devices including laptops, e-tablets, mobile phones, pen drives, communication systems and DVRs were also seized during the searches,” it added.

The NIA said letterheads of different terrorist organisations as well as documents relating to recommendations for visas for admission in Pakistani educational institutions were also found. “A high-tech Internet communication set-up was also recovered from the residence of Mirwaiz Umar,” it added.

In a statement, the umbrella Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) comprising the Mirwaiz, Mr. Malik and Mr. Geelani, termed the NIA searches as “an act of vengeance”.

“The clampdown and threats to tinker with Article 35A were aimed to break the nerves of people,” the JRL said in the statement. “Kashmir will observe a complete shutdown on February 27-28 against it. Our lives, families, existence, resistance and everything is in danger,” they added.

Meanwhile, an eerie calm prevailed in the Kashmir Valley as people stocked up on essentials in the wake of the Indian strikes. Offices and markets, however, remained open and traffic plied normally.

Ceasefire violations

The Army on Tuesday said Pakistan’s Army had violated the ceasefire agreement on the Line of Control (LoC) in the Pir Panjal valley’s Rajouri and Poonch districts and in Jammu’s Akhnoor.

The ceasefire violations by Pakistan had been reported along the LoC in Akhnoor, Nowshera and Krishna Ghati sectors, a Jammu-based Army spokesman said in a statement.

“Around 5:30 p.m., Pakistan initiated an unprovoked ceasefire violation by heavy shelling with mortars and firing of small arms along the LoC,” the Army said. “Indian Army is retaliating strongly and effectively.”

The LoC stretches for 700 km in J&K.

Earlier in the day, the director of Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura, the valley’s main hospital, cancelled leave and the second half of the scheduled winter vacation holidays for all its staff.

With the government issuing a general alert across J&K, the State’s chief secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam urged people to remain calm and not to believe rumours.

“It is necessary that people remain stress free and go about their normal activities. In case there is anything to be communicated regarding people’s safety and security, the government will do so directly through media,” he said.

Cross-LoC trade continues

The escalation between India and Pakistan on Tuesday did not impact the cross-LoC trade.

“The exchange of goods was not affected. Thirty-five trucks crossed from this side and an equal number from that into Kashmir,” said Hilal Turki, president, Cross-LoC Traders Union.

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