August 2000 News

Vigil On Hizbul-Lashkar Clashes

24 August 2000
The Statesman
Kavita Suri

Srinagar: Inter-group and intra-group rivalry among militant outfits operating in J&K is not a new trend. But, security agencies are keeping a close watch on the Lashkar-e-Taiyaba and Hizbul Mujahideen clashes in the post-ceasefire period. After the Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin called off the unilateral ceasefire on 8 August, many developments involving the two important militant outfits have taken place. The Lashkar comprises mainly youths, and the Hizbul has foreign militants. Immediately after the ceasefire was withdrawn, the Lashkar triggered a car blast on Residency Road, killing 14 people, including photojournalist Pradeep Bhatia. On 17 August a Lashkar militant was gunned down at Mehrot in Poonch by Hizbul militants. And a couple of days ago, two Hizbul commanders surrendered before the Romeo Force in Rajouri. Mr Gurbachan Jagat, J&K director-general of police, told The Statesman: that group rivalries ''came to the fore when the ISI handed over the reigns of militancy to foreign mercenaries sidelining the local ones''. When everything from money distribution to arms and operations came under them, local militants felt cheated by the ISI and giving rise to serious differences among the outfits. During the past few months, the main cause of clashes was Jaish-e-Mohammadia, the outfit floated by Moulana Masood Azhar. Most militants from various groups have joined Jaish leading to differences within the cadres, said the DGP. Abu Hijrat, Lashkar instructor who recently surrendered to the Army in Jammu, has said relations between the two outfits were never good, for Hizbul always considered Lashkar ''a threat to their dominance''. Lashkar cadres operating in J&K have direct instructions from Ameer Hafis Sayeed to target Hizbul men in the state ''as they committed treason by announcing the ceasefire''. Though security agencies have launched a massive hunt for Lashkar cadres, observers feel that had the ceasefire remained in force they would have been able to eliminate ''almost the entire Lashkar cadres as Hizbul knows most of the hideouts and infiltration routes from where they sneak into Indian territory.'' Though Hizbul has withdrawn the ceasefire, security agencies fear a bloodbath between the two militant outfits, primarily because Lashkar cadres have clear cut instructions from across the border to go for Hizbul activists. The unified command of security agencies has put all the forces on alert.


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