January 2018 News

The Return Of Kashmiri Fidayeen

1 January 2018
The Tribune (Chandigarh)
Azhar Qadri

Srinagar: The bloodied start to the New Year in Kashmir has also made an alarming re-introduction to a dangerous element to the region's insurgency as Kashmiri militants have been identified as the fidayeen attackers. Class X student Fardeen Ahmad Khanday and cab driver Manzoor Ahmad Baba were identified by the police as the two of the three gunmen who carried out the fidayeen attack on a CRPF camp at Lethpora, outside Srinagar city. The two militants were residents of Pulwama district. Even as fidayeen attacks have continued with frequent pauses in the Kashmir valley, it is for the first time in the past seven years that Kashmiri militants were part of the attacking squad. 'It is a dangerous trend,' said a senior police official in south Kashmir. The last Kashmiri militant who carried out a fidayeen attack was Manzoor Ahmad Bhat, alias Usman, of Seer Jagir village of north Kashmir's Sopore sub-district. Bhat, along with Pakistani militant Qari, had carried out the fidayeen attack on paramilitary installation housed inside Palladium cinema in Srinagar's Lal Chowk area on January 6, 2010. Since the Lal Chowk fidayeen attack, no such incident took place for three years till March 2013 when Jaish-e-Mohammad militants carried out an attack on CRPF personnel in Bemina on city outskirts. Subsequent fidayeen attacks were mostly carried out close to the Line of Control in north Kashmir. Foreign militants affiliated either to Jaish-e-Mohammad or Lashkar-e-Toiba were behind them. Fardeen, one of the two local militants in the fidayeen squad that attacked the paramilitary camp at Lethpora on Sunday, was a resident of Hayuna-Nazneenpora village of south Kashmir's Tral sub-district and a police head constable's son. He had joined Jaish-e-Mohammad on September 15. Before carrying out the attack, the teenager recorded a rare video statement that emerged on Sunday evening. By the time the video emerged on social media sites, the 16-year-old was dead. It is for the first time that a militant in Kashmir has recorded his death wish and provided a window into a militant's life and thinking. 'When you will hear this message, I will be a guest in Allah's gardens of paradise,' Fardeen said, sitting inside a room with large rifles and grenades around him. In the 7.41 minute video, Fardeen talks of alleged injustices and praises the militants of Jaish-e-Mohammad who attacked Pathankot airbase, Nagrota and Tangdhar Army bases, Humhama BSF camp and Pulwama Police Lines. 'They say that youth go into militant ranks because of unemployment, but it is no more than propaganda,' he said, listing and calling for 'jihad' as an obligation. The second local fidayeen, Manzoor, had joined in first week of November after his name surfaced in the attack on the Rajpora police station, a police official said. He was a resident of Pulwama's Drobgam village. The inclusion of Kashmiri militants in fidayeen attacks is uncommon, even though not unprecedented. Jaish-e-Mohammad, which was formed in January 2000 by militant cleric Maulana Masood Azhar, carried out its first attack in Kashmir in April 2000 when a teenage Srinagar resident, Aafaq Shah, drove an explosive-laden vehicle and blasted it outside the gate of Army's 15 Corps headquarters. 'If there are more attacks like this in which Kashmiri militants take part, then it is a significant strategic shift by militants. But there is a need to wait and watch before reaching a conclusion,' a police official, who has expertise in counter-insurgency operations, said.