Demonetisation impact: Are militants now looting banks in Kashmir to tackle cash crunch?

It is slowly becoming a trend that may prove costly. Post the killing of Burhan Wani, militants are resorting to robbing banks in the Kashmir Valley, allegedly to deal with the cash crunch that has hit their ranks following demonetisation.

Within a month, at least two such incidents were reported, in which more than Rs 50 lakhs were robbed from different branches of the Jammu and Kashmir Bank. Cops are clueless, so are the bank officials.

The latest incident happened on Thursday when unidentified suspects targeted a J&K bank branch in Ratnipora of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

 Demonetisation impact: Are militants now looting banks in Kashmir to tackle cash crunch?

Representational image. PTI

According to sources, the suspects rouged up the bank employees, including a physically challenged man, before escaping with Rs 11 lakhs cash.

“I tried to reason with a gunman that I was disabled and would do them no harm. But he twisted my arm and thrashed me, while the others rounded us up in a corner," said Masoor Ahmad, a bank employee.

Although the J&K police was quick to cordon off the area in Ratnipora village, but the suspects managed to flee undetected and unharmed.

The incident took place exactly a week after unidentified suspects, again believed to be militants, decamped with more than Rs 8 lakhs from another branch of J&K Bank in south Kashmir's Arihal on 8 December.

The suspects fired aerial shots to create panic before leaving the spot. No arrests have been made in the case. Police and other security agencies have linked the robbery to demonetisation.

This is the fourth such incident of bank robbery after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the scrapping of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.

In the 8 November surprise announcement, Modi had said that one of the key targets of the move was to stop militants from using counterfeit Indian currency. But it had little bearing on terror networks. In two instances, J&K police recovered new currency notes from militants killed in encounters after 8 November.

A senior officer of the J&K Bank, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they have posted guards from private security agencies outside banks and ATMs, cops are posted outside bank branches in sensitive areas.

“The private security guards are armed with an outdated gun which makes the bank even more vulnerable to attacks. These attacks are of course unfortunate but we are helpless. How can one security guard deal with four men armed with AK-47 rifles,” he said.

On 21 November, a group of suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba workers, robbed a central Kashmir branch of the J&K Bank in Malpora village from where they took at least Rs 14 lakh. They have been arrested by the police.

A senior police officer said that faces of the bank robbers of Ratnipora branch have been captured in CCTV footage. “This is the same group of people who have also carried out other bank robberies recently,” Superintendent of Police, Pulwama, Rayees Mohammad Bhat told Firstpost.

“There is no doubt in our minds about who are behind these robberies, we will arrest them soon,” he added.

Updated Date: Dec 15, 2016 18:35:19 IST