‘Islamic State factions may dominate militancy in Kashmir soon’
New Delhi: Intelligence officials have warned that militancy in Kashmir could become more radical and aggressive by 2019 as new anti-Indian organizations take centre stage in the troubled valley.
Established groups such as the Pakistan-sponsored Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahideen currently spearhead militancy in Kashmir, engaging security forces in gunbattles. Intelligence units in the state claim that emergent Islamic State factions will soon dominate the valley.
“It is already known that the Islamic State has made inroads into Kashmir. However, in the next one or two years militancy in Kashmir will change to hardcore radicalization of the youth with these groups of militants aiming at internationalizing the Kashmir issue,” said a senior intelligence officer, who did not wish to be named.
These observations come a week after top LeT commander Abu Dujana and another militant Arif Lelhari were killed by security forces in Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
On 27 July, an Al-Qaeda faction named Hizbul Mujahideen commander Zakir Musa as the head of the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind cell in Kashmir. While intelligence units had earlier stated that Musa was operating independently in Kashmir to establish the Caliphate in the region, they have now observed that the Al-Qaeda cannot independently survive in Kashmir.
While the LeT and the Hizbul’s signature moves have been to engage security forces in gun battles, the Islamic State and the Al-Qaeda conduct large scale IED (improvised explosive devices) blasts and suicide missions. The latter, intelligence officers said, was a trend that needed to be observed very closely over the next two years, in Kashmir.
“The Al-Qaeda lost all ground after Osama bin Laden was killed. So the group has almost been razed to the ground. Any operations they now conduct in Kashmir or elsewhere will be in conjunction with the Islamic State. While the groups have been trying to get a foothold for a while now, we need to keep a hawk’s eye on any change of trend in warfare in the valley,” the officer added.
While the Union home ministry stated that the bulk of the attacks had been carried out by the Hizbul Mujahideen, orchestrated by its chief Syed Salahuddin, it added that the weaponry and ammunition that had recently been recovered in Kashmir, bore international labels.
“Some of the weapons and other items recovered from the encounter sites have the markings of the foreign countries. Also, the militant group has been getting logistic support, including arms and ammunition from Pakistan,” said a senior home ministry official.
Home ministry data also revealed that up to 16 July, this year, 104 terrorists had been killed in Jammu and Kashmir by the security forces.
Defence experts however, dismissed the claims of the situation in Kashmir spiralling out of control in the coming years.
“The Al-Qaeda is almost absent and the Islamic State is also on its way out. The bulk of terror activity in Kashmir is carried out by Punjabi Muslims who are sponsored by Pakistan. The Islamic State or Al-Qaeda will not find supporters for their cause who will finance them,” said H.S. Panag, a former Indian army officer and defence expert.
Panag added that with Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) sponsoring the United Jihad Council, which is led by Salahuddin and has the Jaish-e-Mohammad, LeT and the Hizbul under its wing, Pakistan will prevent the proliferation of any Islamic State factions in Kashmir. “Pakistan will not complicate matters for itself. It is a far-fetched situation. Such offshoots of Al-Qaeda existed even during 2007-08, but they never took off. What the government should worry about is the Kashmiri youth crossing over into Pakistan, taking up arms and then coming back,” Panag added.