June 2019 News

Zakir Musa Dead, Al-qaeda Kashmir Names New Chief, 2 Deputies

6 June 2019
The Economic Times
Rahul Tripathi

New Delhi: A day after an al-Qaeda offshoot in Kashmir named its new commander and his deputy, union home ministry officials citing intelligence reports said the global terror outfit might be trying to expand its footprints beyond the valley and had a presence in Punjab. On Wednesday, Ansar Gazwa-ul-Hind (AGuH) released a 12-minute video announcing Abdul Hameed Lelhari, alias Haroon Abbas, as its local commander, succeeding Zakir Musa who was gunned down by security forces last month. According to an audio statement of al-Qaeda spokesperson Abu Ubaida, Ghazi Ibrahim Khalid has been named the deputy commander. A senior government official said the militant group might have links with Pakistan. Pakistan has been using proxies to stoke trouble in valley. Though the group claims its affiliation to the al-Qaeda, their links with Pak-based militants cannot be ruled out, the official added. Musa has been the outfits head in Kashmir since July 27, 2017. He was earlier heading terror group Hizbul Mujahideen, after the killing of Burhan Wani in 2016. Musa in 2016 released a video threatening to chop off the heads of Hurriyat leaders and advocated establishing the Islamic law in Kashmir. As per the assessment of intelligence agencies, he has recruited nearly two dozen youth in the valley. The Punjab Police late last year had arrested three students including a cousin of Musa, which had raised suspicion on the terror groups plans to spread outside Kashmir and of efforts by Pakistan's ISI to expand the arc of militancy on India's western border. According to home ministry officials, security forces so far this year had killed more than 100 militants. Last year, over 300 militants were killed in Jammu Kashmir, the highest in four years. As many as 213, 150, and 108 militants were killed in 2017, 2016, and 2015, respectively. The number of violent incidents in Kashmir peaked last year at 614, compared with 342 in 2017, 322 in 2016 and 208 in 2015. While al-Qaeda is trying to expand its presence, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in a charge sheet filed last month confirmed the presence of the Islamic State in the valley. The NIA identified three persons Tahir Ahmad Khan, Haris Mushtaq Khan and Asif Suhail Nadaf calling them active cadres of the Islamic State Jammu Kashmir, a terrorist affiliate of proscribed terrorist organisation ISIS. The three are accused of a botched attempt to attack on a police team at a tourist reception centre in Jammu and Kashmir last year. The case was first investigated by the Jammu and Kashmir Police and then transferred to the NIA.