Srinagar: Security forces gunned down a top commander of Islamic State in Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK) in a pre-dawn gun battle in southern Kashmir area of Shopian. The 34-year-old militant, Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi, had recently featured in the IS mouthpiece, al-Risalah, in which he asserted the need for jihad in Kashmir and owed allegiance to the IS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Police officials said that he was killed during a gun battle in Amshipora area of Shopian which lasted from around 3:30 am to 4 am in an orchard. The forces had acted on a specific tip-off about his presence in the area.
The death comes close on the heels of the first video appearance of al-Baghdadi last month in which he claimed the responsibility for a string of bomb blasts in Sri Lanka at some high-end hotels and cathedrals in which scores of people were killed.
Deputy Inspector General of Police, South Kashmir, Atul Kumar Goel, said that the militant hailed from Sopore area of northern Kashmir. Sources said that there are at least three more militants of ISJK active in southern Kashmir.
In the interview that appeared in al-Risalah, Ishfaq had said that he was associated with Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) and after his dissociation with the militant outfit, he joined the ISJK. The interview was attributed to the al-Tazkirah media centre in Kashmir and Jundul Khilafah Kashmir, a local affiliate of IS caliphate.
In the interview, the militant commander had said that he was active in Kashmir’s militancy since the age of 15.
Police officials said that he was active as an over ground worker (OGW) since 2004 and was arrested earlier before he rejoined militancy. A police official said that he knew of the militant being active with HuM and ISJK for at least nine months. “He was working as an OGW since 2004 and was arrested several times. He had recycled into the militancy after his release from the custody on bail,” said the official.
In the interview with al-Risalah, Ishfaq had said that he was influenced by the IS ideology of caliphate since 2014 which helped him “distinguish between the truth and falsehood.”
What also came out in the interview was the growing feud between the militant outfits. He had said that after he announced his dissociation with HuM the group issued a statement saying that he ran away with their arms and ammunition which “was false.” In the statement issued by HuM on 7 August last year, the militant outfit disowned Ishfaq saying he had caused massive damage to their “outfit” by fleeing “with money and weapons”.
Ishfaq had further said that although ISJK members were few in number, they are “on the right path". The militant was also critical of Hurriyat Conference saying that they recognise the United Nations which doesn’t represent Islamic ideology.
The militant commander has also denounced the Taliban describing its ongoing dialogue with the US in Afghanistan for a peace agreement as “succumbing to pressure”. “Just look at Taliban 2.0 in Afghanistan (that is how we address them), recently they have called off their jihad,” he had said to al-Risalah.
Answering a question about his goal, the militant had said, “The goal is only one, rule of Allah on the land of Allah. Even if it happens with the last remaining drop of blood.”
The IS had earlier described the Jammu and Kashmir police personnel to have been serving the cause of “infidels”.
Last year in June the IS received a major set back after four of its militants were killed in Anantnag area of southern Kashmir. In March this year, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) had filed a charge sheet against two youth of Hyderabad, who owed allegiance to IS, in which it stated that they were to get the weapons from a Kashmiri youth before he was arrested by Delhi Police.
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