Interrogation of Reasi terror attack accused points towards Pak-based LeT handlers: NIA

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New Delhi: The NIA's interrogation of an arrested accused in the attack on a bus carrying pilgrims in Jammu and Kashmir's Reasi last month has pointed towards the role of Pakistan-based handlers of banned terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba, officials said on Tuesday.

Nine people were killed and 41 injured on June 9 when terrorists opened fire at a 53-seater bus, which was on its way from the Shiv Khori temple to the Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Katra, causing it to veer off the road and fall into a deep gorge in Reasi.

NIA officials said at least three terrorists could have been involved in the attack on the bus. Interrogation of Hakam Khan alias Hakin Din has revealed that he provided shelter, logistics and food to the terrorists, they said.

Khan also helped terrorists in conducting a recce of the area and even accompanied them, the officials said, adding the terrorists involved in the attack stayed with Khan on at least three occasions since June 1.

Based on details provided by Khan, the NIA on June 30, searched five locations linked with hybrid terrorists and their overground workers.

Khan's interrogation has also pointed towards the role of two Pakistan-based LeT commanders -- Saifullah alias Sajid Jutt and Abu Qatal alias Qatal Sindhi -- who might have acted as the attackers' handlers, the official said.

This aspect is being further verified, the official added.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over the investigation into the case on June 15 orders from the Union Home Ministry.

LeT commanders Jutt and Qatal have also been named in a charge sheet filed this year by the NIA in connection with its probe related to the attack on civilians in J-K's Rajouri district in 2023.

Seven people belonging to the minority community were killed and several others injured when terrorists attacked Dhangri village in Rajouri on January 1, 2023. While five civilians were killed in firing by terrorists, two lost their lives in an IED blast the next day.

The NIA said it was yet to ascertain any common angle in recent terror attacks carried out in Jammu and Kashmir.

The probe agency has also decided to register a case to investigate last year's terror attack on an Army convoy in Jammu and Kashmir's Poonch that left five personnel dead.

The probe will look to ascertain any "common angle" in last year's attack with the recent terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, the officials said, adding the involvement of Pakistan-based handlers in the case cannot be ruled out.

Five Army personnel lost their lives and another was seriously injured after their vehicle caught fire following a terrorist attack on April 20, 2023, in the Bhata Dhurian area under Poonch district.

The NIA on Tuesday also dispatched a team of its officers to assist the Jammu and Kashmir police in its probe into the terrorist attack on an Army convoy in Kathua that occurred on Monday.

Five Army personnel, including a junior commissioned officer, were killed, and as many were injured when a group of heavily armed terrorists ambushed a patrolling party on the rugged Machedi-Kindli-Malhar mountainous road near the Badnota village in Lohai Malhar, approximately 150 km from the Kathua district's headquarters.

This was the fifth terror attack in the Jammu region within a month.