Arrested J&K cop was ‘undercover agent’ who planted SIMs used by 26/11 attackers

FP

Among the four policemen picked up by the Jammu & Kashmir Police for alleged links with militants is a man who as an "undercover agent" earlier "provided SIM cards to the Lashkar-e-Toiba, which were subsequently used by the militants involved in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks".

However, police now suspect that Mukhtar Ahmad Sheikh — as well as the three other policemen arrested with him — has switched loyalties, and has instead started helping militants recently.

As reported first by The Indian Express on June 16, the police have registered a case and are interrogating these men after their names cropped up in the investigation into an aborted bid to assassinate a former Hizbul Mujahideen commander in Srinagar city recently.

The story of Mukhtar Ahmad Sheikh belongs to the murky world of counter-insurgency, in which the police have been infiltrating militant ranks with their moles to gather intelligence.

Sheikh, a resident of Rang Parestan in Rainawari, Srinagar, was made a 'follower' in the police after his brother — who the police considered a "valuable source" — was killed by militants. Before joining the police, Sheikh drove an autorickshaw in Kolkata.

Sheikh was soon promoted to the rank of constable for "exemplary work" in counter-insurgency. Sources said that he had worked with four top police officers, and played key roles in several major operations against militants.

After 26/11, the trail of SIM cards recovered from the militants killed in Mumbai led to Sheikh's dramatic arrest in Delhi in December 2008.

As reported by The Indian Express on December 7 and 8, 2008, Sheikh had been on an undercover mission to infiltrate the Lashkar, and had successfully planted 22 SIM cards in the organisation — a few of which were used by the militants involved in the 26/11 attacks.

Information about these SIM cards, J&K Police had said, had been provided to the "concerned authorities" for keeping a watch three months prior to the Mumbai attacks.

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