Gunshots rang out in south Kashmir late in the evening on 26 June. It was the first day of the Union Home Minister Amit Shah's visit to the state but incidents of shootings and gunfights in the dead of the night no longer evoke concern in the Valley. However, this time around, the Valley has reason to be worried.
On the morning of 27 June, security forces recovered the body of Adil Ahmad Dass from the orchards in the Bijbehara area. Adil was recruited by the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba in July 2018, but had recently defected to an outfit that has pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. During searches, security forces also came across and arrested an injured LeT militant.
In what seemed to be an incident that will likely further escalate tensions between the various armed separatist outfits — already at loggerheads with each other owing to ideological differences, and who until now, had just one enemy: The Indian State — they had now clashed among themselves.
The outfit now called the Islamic State Hindh Province (ISHP) took on defectors from the traditional pro-Pakistan militant outfits. Although the ISHP has so far not officially issued a statement on Adil's killing, a member of the outfit featured in a video that was circulated on pro-IS Telegram channels on late Thursday evening, blaming the "conspiracies" of the LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen.
In the video, the militant identified by his code name Khateeb ridiculed rumours that Adil was "killed by Indian agencies" and instead alleged that the HM and LeT jointly laid out a trap for Adil and his associate, identified by the militant as Turaib, on the pretext of pledging allegiance to the Islamic State and its fugitive leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. "After Adil bhai was martyred, they targeted Turaib bhai with a burst of fire but injured one of their own" who was eventually left behind without weapons, he says in the video.
In the background, helicopters appear to be hovering overhead, but the militants are unfazed. The militant showed pictures of the three members of the HM and LeT posing with Adil after allegedly falsely pledging allegiance as evidence of their complicity. "They are apostates who are doing jihad for Pakistan's unholy and apostate government," Khateeb chided.
Khateeb claimed that the traditional pro-Pakistan outfits "only wanted to kill Muslims" and alleged similar plots were hatched against other members of their outfit, details of which would be released in a subsequent video. Addressing the HM's Valley-based chief, Riyaz Naikoo, the militant towards the end once again shows a picture of Adil with the three militants and declared that "Indian agents did not kill him, Pakistan agents did. The apostates did".
The HM and LeT have so far not come out with official statements.
Vindication for the pan-Islamists
Infighting isn't new to militancy in the state. The first phase of the militancy that erupted in the late 1980s descended into massive infighting that saw several clashes between the various militant outfits, all of which in turn helped India establish its writ in the Valley. In September 2015, three militants of the Lashkar-e-Islam headed by Abdul Qayoom Najar, a breakaway module of the HM in north Kashmir, were tortured and killed allegedly by the HM. Najar's outfit, like the ISHP and the Ansar Ghazwatul Hind today, was called an Indian intelligence ploy.
However, Wednesday's incident has come as vindication for pan-Islamist outfits, both the Islamic State in Kashmir and its rivals in the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar, that have repeatedly warned against Pakistan and its bartering of "jihad" for its "own national and strategic interests" in the region.
Traditional militant outfits operating in the Valley under the umbrella of the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir-based United Jihad Council are loyal to Pakistani interests. Prominent militants of the Ansar, including its founder Zakir Musa and Pakistani defectors to the outfit, have even accused Pakistan of providing information on militants to the Indian security establishment from time to time.
In the years since the new militancy openly rebelled against the separatist old guard, militants of both outfits have claimed to have suffered at the hands of their parent organisations, including disarmament, entering into scuffles and sometimes harassment of their families. In an audio call recorded before his death, a militant inspired by the Islamic State, Firdous Lone, says that the HM in the Shopian district was "threatening us the way the (Indian) Army does".
The alleged trap laid out for the Islamic State militants comes just weeks after The Indian Express reported intelligence-sharing by Pakistan, of an imminent attack in Kashmir, with India. The report quoted a senior police official to say that activities of pan-Islamist outfits such as those linked to Al-Qaeda is "seen differently by them".
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Updated Date: Jun 28, 2019 12:26:35 IST