Absconding major surfaces in US, says Al Qaeda present in Kashmir

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

SRINAGAR - An ex-army major, wanted for the 1996 disappearance and murder of a lawyer and rights activist, has surfaced in California and reportedly said the Al Qaeda is present in Jammu and Kashmir - a claim strongly denied by the authorities here who are now planning to seek his extradition.

Major Avtar Singh, who worked for the Territorial Army in the Valley, had been named as accused by police for the disappearance and subsequent murder of Jaleel Andrabi, a prominent local lawyer and human rights activist.

A story carried Tuesday by a prominent local English daily said Singh had told an American news agency that he feared the Al Qaeda terror outfit and that it was active in Kashmir.

Dismissing Singh’s allegations about Al Qaeda presence in Kashmir, K. Rajendra Kumar, additional director general police (Law and order), told the newspaper: “There is no evidence of Al Qaeda presence in Jammu and Kashmir state.”

Kuldeep Khoda, state director general of police (DGP), said: “The rumours about Al Qaeda presence in the state are totally baseless and fabricated.”

“The delay in the Andrabi case which has been pending trial for many years is mainly because of Singh’s non-arrest,” a senior lawyer told IANS here.

The body of Andrabi, who had disappeared March 8, 1996, was recovered after 19 days from a stream. He had reportedly been dragged out of his car by some gunmen while he was travelling with his wife in his car on the Hyderpora bypass in Srinagar.

A special investigating team (SIT) was set up by police to probe the murder. The SIT finally charged Singh along with some other counter-insurgent gunmen for Andrabis murder.

A double bench of the Jammu and Kashmir high court had monitored the progress of the SIT into the lawyers murder. Subsequent to the police naming him as accused in the court of the chief judicial magistrate, Badgam, the army maintained that Singh had been disengaged by the Territorial Army.

Kashmir police had traced the absconding former major to Haryana, but he continued to evade arrest, police sources said here.

Last month, Singh surfaced in California after his wife charged him with domestic violence and also told police in America that Singh was wanted in a murder case in Kashmir.

The chief judicial magistrate, Srinagar, was approached by local police for his extradition after the accused surfaced in California.

A team of the local police has been sent to Delhi to approach the external affairs ministry for seeking Singhs extradition to India, a senior police officer said here.

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