This is the story of a woman exploited by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist outfit, which sent her to Pakistani camps for arms training and then infiltrated her into the Kashmir Valley with a specific mission to befriend the Indian security forces and kill them apart from spreading the terror network in the strife-torn state. Indian security forces arrested the LeT operative, Khalida Akhtar, on 19 September 2006. Her interrogation revealed a sordid saga of how Pakistani terror outfits are exploiting Kashmiris in the name of jihad against India.
Khalida Akhtar belongs to an agricultural family based in a village in the Sheeri district of Baramulla. She reportedly developed links with militant outfits in 2002. Khalida was arrested in 2002 under the Public Safety Act (PSA). She was released within 6-7 months. She was again detained in 2004 and booked under the PSA for her association with the LeT. Twenty-year old Khalida has studied upto XIIth standard and has been associated with the LeT and Al Badr. She also worked as Secretary, Muslim Khawateen Markaz, Rajbagh, Srinagar, considered to by pro Syed Ali Shah Geelani faction of the Hurriyat Conference. Through her uncle, Ghulam Ahmed Lone alias Mushtaq, who was a LeT member, Khalida developed links with militant outfits as early as 2000-01. Khalida was provided a house at Brien Nishat in Srinagar by MKM activists where she stayed along with two MKM activists Shaista and Kulsum of Pulwama. During her stay in Srinagar, she worked as a courier for LeT militants particularly Anas and Rizwan. Rizwan had also given her a pistol with 100 rounds.
Taking The Militant Path
After her release in 2005, she started working for the LeT with more vigour and joined the Muslim Khawateen Markaz, Srinagar, reportedly through the hard-line Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. She was also provided an accommodation in Srinagar. Militant indoctrination had hardened her resolve to pursue the training programme and given her dedication for the training course, Anas Bhai, a prominent LeT Commander in North Kashmir, arranged a fake passport for her in the name of Nazia r/o Tregham, Kupwara. Anas also arranged for a Pakistani visa for Khalida. Khalida, along with another local from Kupwara, went to Pakistan in April 2006. In Pakistan, she underwent extensive arms training and ideological indoctrination. Senior Pakistani Army officials including one Major Tariq were reportedly involved in training Khalida. Weapons’ training was given by female instructors during which she came across other Kashmiri girls as well. Khalida was also trained in the tradecraft of spreading the terror network across India. One of the key tasks assigned to her during her training programme in Pakistan was to befriend Indian security forces by expressing a desire for working as an informer for them. Khalida tried to unsuccessfully ‘befriend’ an Army Colonel at Iqbal Park and get him killed. However, she was arrested in Handwara on 19 September 2006. Khalida is reportedly the first female LeT militant to be arrested. Haseeb Mubgal, SP, Handwara, told reporters that Khalida had been trained in the use of sophisticated weapons including pen pistols, cyanide pistols and toy grenades.
The New Face of Terror
Though militancy in Kashmir began in the 1990s, women have traditionally not been part of militant outfits. This is established by the fact that in the last 17 years, only 12 women have been booked under the PSA for supporting militancy. In November 2005, a 22-year old woman Yasmeena had blown herself up at Awantipora, indicating that women were joining as potential suicide bombers for militant outfits in Kashmir. The Jaish-e-Mohammad terror outfit had later claimed that Yasmeena was their suicide bomber but observers said that she was probably one of the women indoctrinated and misused by militant outfits. The arrest of Khalida Akhtar indicates that the security forces have to prepare themselves to face female militants, the new face of terror in the Valley. Increasing number of female militants would also have serious implications for the Kashmiri society. It is imperative that the government and security forces are able to outline a socio-economic programme that effectively undercuts the militant indoctrination of Kashmiris, especially women who clearly endure the most of ongoing violence and are more vulnerable.