July 2002 News

Kashmiri militants say camps closed

29 July 2002
The Daily Excelsior

Muzaffarabad: Militants today said they had closed down training camps in Pakistan- occupied Kashmir (PoK) on the orders of President Pervez Musharraf and the military. Independent analysts agreed that militant activity in the PoK had been sharply curtailed, but added that camps would be mothballed rather than abandoned by a Pakistan Army still nervous about the future. ''We have closed down our training camps in Azad (free) Kashmir,'' said a source close to the United Jihad Council, the main anti-Indian guerrilla alliance. ''There is no more training of Kashmiri militants (in Pakistan),'' said the source, adding that cross- border infiltration of guerrillas had also halted. ''We did it under immense pressure from the Pakistan Government.'' But even if militant activity falls on the Pakistan side, militants said they had sufficient fighters and ammunition inside Kashmir to carry on their fight. Gen Musharraf is under intense international pressure to crack down on Pakistan-based militants, who have long acted as proxies for the Pakistan armed forces seeking control over Kashmir. New Delhi blames Pakistan-based militants for a string of deadly attacks on civilians and troops in Kashmir despite claims by Pakistan that it has stopped infiltration across the Line of Control dividing the two sides. Militants close to the Tehrik-e-Jihad group, which operates on both sides of Kashmir, said police in PoK were making thorough checks of vehicles on roads leading to border areas, preventing militants from crossing the Line of Control. Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan came close to war over Kashmir earlier this year, and while tensions have eased around one million troops are still amassed along their borders. Aqil Shah of the international crisis group, a think tank and lobby group, said the Pakistan military had probably ordered a halt to infiltration and closed down training bases in Kashmir, but would not break links with rebels altogether. ''I donít think the Pakistan Army is going to let go of what they see as their strategic strength,'' he said. ''Pakistan would rely heavily on this reservoir of manpower, in addition to its regular Army, in the case of any armed conflict (with India).'' Musharraf severed links between his Army and the Afghan Taliban regime in support of the US-led bombing campaign which saw the hardline Islamic militia toppled. But clamping down on Kashmiri militants has been a far more bitter pill to swallow for the armed forces. Shah agreed with militant claims that lower activity in PoK would not prevent attacks from groups based on the Indian side. ''We have many mobile training camps in the hills and forests of Kashmir where youths are trained to fight Indian forces,'' said a source with links to Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, the main militant group in Kashmir. ''The recent series of attacks on Indian forces is proof that we are capable of continuing our struggle without support,'' said one, declining to give details of which group he represented.


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