Lashkar-e-Taiba Leader Said To Be In Pakistani Custody Directs Operations In Kashmir

2 April 2009
The Long War Journal

New Delhi: A senior Lashkar-e-Taiba military commander behind the Mumbai terror assault and thought to be in Pakistani custody is directing complex military operations into India-held Kashmir, according to intelligence intercepts by Indian intelligence agencies. Yusuf Muzammil, the senior operations director for the banned Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba, has been overheard by Indian intelligence requesting Hizbul Mujahideen Chief Syed Sallahuddin 'to push a large number of militant cadres into the state' of Kashmir and Jammu, The Times of India reported. Muzammil is said to have planned the winter infiltration operations, which requires elite forces from the Hizbul Mujahideen, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and other allied terrorist groups to push through the treacherous snow-covered winter passages along the northern end Line of Control into Indian-held Kashmir. The fighters are said to be well trained for high-altitude and cold-weather environments and well equipped to survive the dangerous crossings. The groups are equipped with global positioning systems and cold-weather gear, The Hindu reported. More than 300 fighters are reported to have made the dangerous crossing to fight Indian forces. In the largest battle this year, one group of 25 fighters from the Lashkar-e-Taiba conducted a deadly attack in the Kupwara district. Seventeen terrorists and eight Indian troops, including a major, were killed during five days of fighting. Lashkar-e-Taiba took credit for the fighting in Kupwara and warned India of new attacks. “The gun battles should serve as a message to India that the struggle for Kashmir’s freedom is on with full vigour,” Abdullah Ghaznavi, a Lashkar spokesman, said. The Pakistani government claimed that Muzammil was placed under custody along with other senior Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders after India provided evidence of their involvement in the November 2008 terror assault in Mumbai that killed more than 170 people and locked down the city for more than 60 hours. Muzammil is said to be the prime planner of the attack, which involved a team of 12 Lashkar operatives being inserted by sea and fanning out to attack police and civilian targets throughout Mumbai. The report of Muzammil's detention and planning of attacks in Kashmir highlights the chaotic security situation inside Pakistan. Muzammil is not the only senior terrorist reported to be in Pakistani detention who has either escaped prison or planned terror operations while in custody. Pakistani officials claimed that Jaish-e-Mohammed leader Maulana Masood Azhar was under house arrest in December 2008 after he was implicated in the Mumbai attack. But senior Pakistani officials later backtracked and said his whereabouts were unknown and he was never placed under house arrest. He then fled to South Waziristan. Senior al Qaeda operative Omar Saeed Sheikh plotted to kill former President Pervez Musharraf and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kiyani while serving a sentence at the Hyderabad Jail for the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. Sheikh also is believed to be complicit in the murder of a senior Pakistani counterterrorism officer. Rashid Rauf, another leader in both al Qaeda and Jaish-e-Mohammed, escaped from police custody under highly suspect circumstances while being transferred from a court hearing in Islamabad back to a prison. Rauf was thought to have been killed in a US airstrike in South Waziristan last year, but his death has not been confirmed.