In a move to curb and investigate terror-related activities emanating from Kashmir, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) opened an office in Jammu last week. This is the NIA’s seventh office in the country. Apart from Jammu and Kashmir, the Jammu office will cover the states of Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh.

Official sources said that the focus of the NIA’s Jammu office will be on terror attacks and the hawala racket that is being run by the separatist groups supported by Pakistan-based agencies.

“Apart from the Jammu office, we are pushing for opening of local offices in Srinagar, Anantnag and Udhampur. Many of the modules of Fake Indian Currency Notes (FICN) that we are investigating have their roots in the valley and because of a lack of regional offices, our officials had to function from makeshift offices or from Delhi. Now since we will have a permanent office with a staff that will be positioned here permanently, the investigation in these cases is expected to gather pace,” a senior official with the NIA said.

Last week, the NIA had summoned Naeem Geelani, the  elder son of hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, for recording his statement in connection with a Preliminary Enquiry registered by the agency in a case related to suspected terror funds. The NIA suspects that funds are being brought into the valley through hawala channels to fund the recent anti-India activities. The NIA had first expressed its intention to open an office in Jammu and Kashmir in September last year after which the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC) had expressed its strong displeasure.

The NIA has been on the trail of the alleged links between separatist leaders and hawala handlers since 2011 when it had established a money trail that showed how the ISI was using intermediaries and the hawala network to fund separatists in Kashmir. It had claimed that from 2008 to 2011, over Rs 4.5 crore was transferred from Pakistan into Hurriyat hands using the hawala route. The money had been facilitated by a Hizbul Mujahideen handler based in Pakistan, Maqbool Pandit.

Official sources said that multiple instances of money being deposited into the bank accounts of over-ground workers linked to separatist groups had come to light in recent times. “Many account holders, who have no relatives or friends working abroad, are receiving funds in a gap of 2-3 months. These amounts, after being withdrawn by the account holders, who have no terror links, are then handed to the separatist groups. We will be able to break the entire chain more easily now as we have a full-fledged office in the state,” the official said. The Ministry of Home Affairs has designated the NIA as the nodal agency for investigations into terror funding in the valley.

Apart from New Delhi and Jammu, the NIA branch offices are at Hyderabad in Telangana, Guwahati (Assam), Kochi (Kerala), Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh), Mumbai (Maharashtra) and Kolkata (West Bengal).



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