October 2003 News

'80 p.c. of militants in J&K are foreigners'

7 October 2003
The Hindu
Our Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: The Army today presented a captured Pakistani terrorist to 15 foreign defence attaches to back up its claim that the bulk of the militant activity in Jammu and Kashmir is not indigenous in nature. 'All Pakistan-based terrorist camps and launch pads have reopened and are being supported by the Pakistani Army. Around 80 per cent of the militants are foreigners,' a senior officer told the defence attaches from the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Bangladesh, Indonesia and several African and Asian countries. In a similar briefing for the media later, the Army's new spokesman, Deepak Summenwar, said that infiltration attempts were matching last year's levels. However, backed by new technology and a restructured deployment pattern, the Army was scoring more hits. The defence attaches were also taken to the Gurez sector where a Ladakh Scouts patrol established 'contact' with militants on September 21. Troops from the elite para-commandos and the Sikh regiment poured in to commence 'Operation Baraub' that lasted 10 days and ended with the killing of 19 militants. Another infiltrating batch of 10 terrorists was similarly surrounded and killed near Jammu on September 9. 'The results are encouraging for us. We have developed capacities to track them from their launch pads till their annihilation despite the treacherous terrain and equally bad weather,' said Maj. Gen. Summenwar. The Army is now planning to strengthen counter-insurgency operations by recruiting locals in the Territorial Army (TA) battalions. The proposal relating to the creation of seven 'home and hearth' TA battalions (about 6,000 men) is awaiting clearance by the Cabinet Committee. One battalion each would be raised in Kupwara, Baramulla, south central Kashmir in the Kashmir division and one each from the Rajouri, Kishtwar, Basholi and Bari Brahamna region in Jammu. Outside the briefing hall, the militant, Mohd. Shahzad, sat on a chair and answered queries by mediapersons who were preceded by the equally curious defence attaches. The Army withdrew its personnel to allow unhindered questioning, but one jawan remained to film the interaction. While a few men from the specialised counter-insurgency force, the Rashtriya Rifles, lounged in the background with their AK-47s at the ready, Shahzad narrated how as an unemployed 21-year-old, he left his parents and three younger siblings in Pakistan's Faisalabad district to join the ranks of the Lashker-e-Taiba. The initial months after his entry into Jammu and Kashmir in June 2000, after getting trained by the LeT, retired Pakistani Army and ISI personnel, were comfortable. Ammunition arrived in time from Pakistan, villagers offered food and clothing, Army patrols were too few to cause discomfort and radio communication with his Pakistan-based commander was regular. 'Haalat normal they' (the situation was normal). The tide, according to Shahzad, turned about a year ago. Pressure increased due to frequent patrols and civilians were not as forthcoming with offers of shelter. He was finally cornered on September 13 while his accomplice, a local, escaped. Involved in the insurgency movement for three years, never once returning to his family, Shahzad said that over the years civilian support had dipped and youngmen from Pakistan were replacing local militants. His movements were marked by a shuffle due to a back injury during the encounter and there was a band-aid covering a gash on his forehead. Shahzad answered most queries readily but there was a long pause when asked if he wanted to return to normal life. 'Who doesn't want to go home?' he asked.


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