Hizbul Trying To hold Its Ground Intact
21 September 2000
New Delhi: The presence of some Hizbul Mujahideen militants amongst the 22 intruders killed by the Army in Poonch earlier this week indicated that the Hizb did not want to lose supremacy in Kashmir. The Hizb, though not inclined to fight now, was forced to do so to retain its credibility amongst the ''jehadi'' groups. Analysts, examining this fierce encounter lasting 48 hours in the Mangana sector of Poonch, said here on Thursday the group of intruders included cadres of the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Hizb. They were heavily armed and the Pakistani army tried to help them break the security cordon by shelling the Punjab battalion carrying out Operation Spade Chase. Explaining the likely cause of the presence of the Hizb cadres amongst the group, experts said it did not want the foreign groups of terrorists to wrest the reins of insurgency from the Hizb. Its cadres, willy-nilly, had to take part in operations against the security forces alongwith the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Al Badr. The most apparent reason was that the Hizb did not want to lose face amongst the so-called jehadi groups, experts said. Terming this grim tussle as a battle for survival, analysts said the Hizb served as pointmen and guides for the foreign mercenaries owing allegiance to the other two groups. It was also a fact that the local Hizb foot soldiers were tired of the protracted battle with the security forces but were forced to take them on to prevent the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Al Badr to secure a foothold in the strife-torn State. The Hizb fighters and the security forces called an unofficial truce after the Hizb''s offer for a cease-fire. The anti-insurgency operations against the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Al Badr, however, continued as the security forces wanted to deny the foreign mercenaries to gain ground in Kashmir, analysts said. The commanders fighting the insurgents, meanwhile, revealed that infiltration attempts had increased in the last two months. These attempts, however, were going to taper off with the onset of winter as most of the mountain passes would be snow-bound and difficult to cross, sources said. Most of the intrusions were taking place south of Pir Panjal ranges into Poonch and Rajouri sectors. The mountain passes here were at a lower height and offered the militants more options to strike in a vast area spreading from Poonch to Jammu and Doda. The northern areas across the Pir Panjal ranges restricted the militants to the Kashmir Valley, sources said. Elaborating upon this further they said the security forces were able to detect 32 cases of intrusions in June and 23 in July as compared to two each in January and February, six in March, five in April and six in May along the international border and Line of Control. They admitted the number of successful intrusions could be more. They also said the induction of battle-hardened Afghan war veterans into Kashmir was another worrying factor for the over-stretched security forces. These guerrilla-fighters-well-versed in mountain warfare and living off the land, were not shy of taking the security forces head on. In fact, they laid meticulous and well-planned ambushes for the army patrols and fought pitched battles with them in the ensuing fire fights, sources said.