Two men believed to be linked to Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed have been arrested from Uttar Pradesh, the police said on Friday, amid heightened nationwide security following the Pulwama terror attack. Both are from Jammu and Kashmir, they added.
One of the arrested men is Shahnawaz Ahmad, a resident of Jammu and Kashmir's Kulgam, who used to recruit members for the Jaish, Uttar Pradesh police chief OP Singh said at a news conference. He is also believed to be a grenade expert, he added. The other man is Aqib Ahmad Malik, a resident of Pulwama.
The two men were arrested by the Anti-Terror Squad of the state police on Thursday from Deoband in Western Uttar Pradesh, a place known for a number of Islamic seminaries and educational institutions. The police found a handgun and bullets in their possession.
"It is difficult to say whether the two men came before the Pulwama attack or after that and whether they were linked to it... we have evidence of Jaish connections that we can't share right now," Mr Singh said.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, however, appeared to suggest the suspects were linked to the terror strike in Pulwama. "We conducted an operation in Uttar Pradesh last night. We received a few links related to the Pulwama attack in connection with which we did a big operation in Uttar Pradesh last night," he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI during an event.
Over 40 troopers of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed in a suicide attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama last week. The Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attack has triggered a strong response in India, which has made efforts to isolate Pakistan diplomatically and in terms of trade. Security operations too have been stepped up and over the weekend the army said it had managed to wipe out the top leadership of the Jaish in Kashmir, including the terrorist believed to be the main organiser of the attack.
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