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Militants target families of policemen in Kashmir conflict

A number of family members or relatives of local police have been abducted by suspected militants in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir in the past 48 hours and authorities are on high alert.

The 11 people abducted over two days are either family members or relatives of local police, reports and sources said.

On Thursday night, the nephew of a deputy superintendent of police was taken from his home in Thairun Trenz village in south Kashmir’s Shopian district.

Targeting families

At least five family members of local policemen were abducted from Kulgam district on Thursday evening, according to reports. Those abducted were identified as Zubair Ahmad, the son of a policeman from Arwani in Kulgam, Arif Ahmed, the brother of a policeman from Arwani, Faizan Ahmad, the son of a policeman from Kharpora, Sumar Ahmad Rather, the son of a policeman from Yaripora, and Gowhar Ahmad, the brother of a deputy superintendent from Katapora.

Militants also abducted Nasir Ahmad, son of a policeman from Midoora Tral in Pulwama district, on Thursday. One day earlier, Asif Ahmad, the son of a local policeman from Pinglish village of Tral in Pulwama, was abducted.

The Jammu and Kashmir police said in a tweet on Friday morning: “Some incidents of abduction have come to the notice of Police  in south Kashmir. We are ascertaining details and circumstances. In due course it shall be placed in public domain.”

The abductions come after the families of two militant commanders – Shahjahan, the district commander of Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Syed Naved, the Hizbul Mujahideen commander – alleged that forces set fire to their houses in Shopian late on Wednesday night.

On Wednesday in Shopian, militants ambushed and killed four policemen outside a vehicle workshop, hours after A++ category militant Altaf Kachroo, a Hizbul Mujahideen commander, was killed in a clash with authorities.

On Eid – August 22 – an inspector was among three policemen killed by militants in south Kashmir. After the targeting of police and increasing casualties among the force in the valley, the Director General of Jammu and Kashmir Police, S P Vaid, told personnel to remain cautious.

Policemen are now allowed only short surprise visits to their families in cases of emergency and only after informing their station beforehand, on the instructions of the Director General of Police.

Three southern districts – Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam – have been declared sensitive zones for police visiting their homes, officers told local media. On Thursday morning, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Syed Ahmad Shakeel, the son of Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin, at his Srinagar residence and took him to New Delhi. His arrest was linked to funding terrorists.

In the early hours of January 30, Jammu and Kashmir police arrested the 70-year-old father of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo during a raid in the Awantipora area in Pulwama. Eighteen youths were also detained during raids in several villages of Pulwama district.

Reports suggested that authorities decided to launch a massive operation in south Kashmir. A high-level security meeting was held by the top command of security forces on Thursday evening where it was decided that a massive manhunt would be started at first light on Friday to trace the abducted people, reports said.

Separatist leaders on Thursday avoided commenting on the kidnappings of family members of the police. Instead, they condemned the “burning” of houses belonging to militants and the harassment of their families.

In a statement, they said this was a “ploy to punish, intimidate, harass and humiliate” the families of militants, which “will only worsen the situation and turn it ugly and out of control.”

Meanwhile, the mother of an abducted policeman’s son made a passionate plea for his release in a video posted on social media.

Chief minister Omar Abdullah said on Twitter: “11 abductions! This is a very worrying reflection of the situation in the valley. What’s worse is the selective outrage – people/leaders who are so vocal about alleged security force excesses are silent about these abductions.”

“Militants and forces victimizing each other’s families is highly condemnable and marks a new low in our situation.Families shouldn’t become casualties and made to suffer for something they have little control over,” former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti posted on Twitter.

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