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India returns alleged spy bird to Pakistan

May 30, 2020

A pigeon belonging to a Pakistani fisherman that flew into Indian territory has been returned after authorities confirmed that it was not a spy. The bird crossed the contentious Kashmir border earlier this week.

A man holds a pigeon
Image: Reuters/L. Smith

Indian authorities have released a bird belonging to a fisherman from across the country's border with Pakistan after it was confirmed that the pigeon was not a spy, officials said on Friday.

"The pigeon was set free yesterday (May 28) after nothing suspicious was found," said Shailendra Mishra, a senior police official in Indian-administered Kashmir.

No information was provided about where the bird was released or if it had reached its owner, Habibullah, who lives in a village near the contentious border between India and Pakistan.

"It's just an innocent bird," Habibullah said on Friday.

Read more: How Kashmir is trapped by a 'killer highway'

Earlier this week, he had appealed to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the return of his bird.

"I appeal (to the) Indian Prime Minister to return my pigeon which crossed the border during a training session for an upcoming tournament," said Habibullah.

Pigeon racing is a popular sport in villages along the border, where the birds are identified with markers such as stamps, paint and rings on their feet. There have been numerous instances where birds from either side are lost across the border

"We had to take the bird into our custody to probe if it was being used for spying," a senior Indian border security official told Reuters on the condition of anonymity. He explained that this was standard procedure as border tensions remained high between the neighbors.

The pigeon was taken into custody after numbers inscribed on a ring on the bird's leg were thought to be codes meant for militant groups operating in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Read moreIs India using COVID-19 emergency to arrest protesters?

However, Habibullah said that the digits on the pigeon's leg were his mobile phone number, which could be used to prove ownership in case the bird was lost.

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see/dr (Reuters, dpa)

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