February 2019 News

Kashmir On The Edge As Terror Rears Its Ugly Head Again In Valley

24 February 2019
Shaswati Das

Srinagar: Emotions are running high in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama district's Lethpora and adjoining areas, where suicide bomber Adil Ahmad Dar, a school dropout from Gundibagh village in south Kashmir, had driven an explosives-laden SUV in a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy, killing 40 personnel on 14 February. Dar is not an outlier. Today, the local youth unabashedly admit to their aspirations of joining the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). The terror outfit's rise in the valley over the last one year has not gone unnoticed by the intelligence and security agencies either. According to senior officials, 530 young boys, including Zakir Musa, joined the Jaish in the past year, out of which 360 were neutralized in 2018 alone. This, however, is only the tip of the iceberg. Now, JeM is looking to carry out strikes, bigger and more lethal than Pulwama. 'We have inputs that point to a much, much bigger strike than what was carried out. We don't know what form or shape it will take, or when it will happen, but we are adequately preparing for it,' says a special operations group (SOG) official of the J&K Police. Established in 1998, JeM had suffered a body blow in 2003 when it fell out with the Pakistani establishment following an attempt on former president Pervez Musharraf's life. Around the same time, in Kashmir, security forces had taken down the mastermind of the Parliament attacks, Gazi Baba, a close associate of JeM chief Maulana Masood Azhar. What followed, was the total collapse of the outfit and the eventual rise of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Hizbul Mujahideen in the valley. In 2016, after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was gunned down, the Jaish began to rise from its decade-long slumber, with the attack on the Indian Army's brigade headquarters at Uri. Security forces said following the induction of the new commander, Noor Mohammad Trali, Jaish has shifted focus and tact to launch spectacular strikes, including suicide bombings and improvised explosive device (IED) attacks. Their recruitment and training tact is simple: It desists from recruitments through online radicalization to keep its digital footprint to a minimum. Instead, overground workers of the Jaish keep a lookout for boys and trail them for weeks. Once recruited, the youth are taken to local clusters inside the jungles in the mountains, and trained for a few days before carrying out a 'mission'. Dar and his brothers, Sameer and Touseef Ahmad, had run away from home on 19 March 2018, on the pretext of going to school. Today, at Dar's Gundibagh home, his picture is taped to a cupboard. His mother mourns the death of her son, but the family has no remorse. 'We tried recalling him, but he didn't come. Yes, we feel sorry for the soldiers who lost their lives, but we have no remorse for what our boys do. They know how to use guns from a young age and then they undergo rudimentary training before they are sent for their missions. Our sons drew inspiration from Burhan Wani and preferred joining the Jaish to fighting the state,' said Ghulam Hasan Dar, his father. Security forces are aware of the threat from the growing popularity of the JeM, especially among the local youth, after Masood Azhar's two nephews, Talha Rashid and Usman Ibrahim, were gunned down in 2017. Besides, intelligence agencies said Azhar has already sent a few of his trusted lieutenants, who have sufficient training from the Taliban, have already infiltrated into Kashmir, to steer the outfit's actions in the valley. This should set the alarm bells for India's security establishment.