Security agencies are on high alert across Jammu and Kashmir concerned about the possibility of a strike by Jaish-e-Mohammad to mark the fifth anniversary of the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru on February 9. “We are always on alert but February 9 and 11 are important days in Kashmir so we are taking extra precautions,’’ Director General of J&K Police S P Vaid told The Indian Express. While the anniversary of Guru’s hanging is on February 9, Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front founder Maqbool Bhat was hanged in Tihar jail on February 11, 1984.
The Jaish-e-Mohammad, set up by Masood Azhar in 2000 soon after he was released in exchange for passengers and crew of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight, made a return to the Valley around 2014 with Guru the central theme of its campaign. In fact, Jaish made its “Afzal Guru Squad” public when it attacked the Army camp in Kupwara on November 25, 2015. Three Jaish militants placed IEDs at the rear of the Army Brigade headquarters in Tangdhar on the LoC and lobbed grenades at the oil depot setting off a fire that damaged barracks and vehicles.
The militants, who were killed after an eight-hour long gunbattle, police said, were carrying bags with “Afzal Guru Squad” inscribed on them.
Over the next six weeks, Jaish carried out two major strikes in Guru’s name.
The Pathankot attackers (January 2-5, 2016) allegedly left a handwritten note in Superintendent of Police Salwinder Singh’s vehicle which said, “Jaish-e-Muhammad Zindabad, Tangdhar se le kar Samba Kathua, Rajbagh aur Delhi tak, Afzal Guru shaheed kay jaanisar tum ko miltay rahega inshallah A G S” (Long live Jaish-e-Muhammad – From Tangdhar (in Kupwara) to Sambha Kathua (in Jammu), Rajbagh (Srinagar) and Delhi, you will keep meeting with Afzal Guru’s fervid loyalists who are ready to lay down their lives for him).
With the Pathankot operation still on, the Indian mission in Afghanistan’s Mazar-e-Sharif was attacked where attackers allegedly wrote on a wall in blood that they had come to avenge Afzal Guru: “one martyr, a thousand fidayeen”.
“The Afzal squad is formed of fidayeens. They carried out few attacks in Jammu province, in Kathua and Sambha. They would also carry out BAT actions along the LoC. That was till they set up base in Kashmir again in 2014-15,’’ an officer said. “Though they aren’t big in numbers in the Valley, they (Jaish) are responsible for some big attacks. In November last year, Masood Azhar’s nephew Talha Rashid was killed in South Kashmir”.
A Senior Superintendent of Police in north Kashmir said that though they (Jaish cadres) are mostly concentrated in south Kashmir, the latest alert is that they may try and strike in north — particularly Sopore and Handwara.
Said Additional Director General of Police, Kashmir zone, Muneer Khan: “There is no doubt that if we lower our guard even a bit, they will strike.’’
He said that there are around 22 Jaish militants active in the Valley of whom 15 are in South Kashmir while the rest in the north. “Though Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar are still bigger in numbers, Jaish has come to the forefront. After we killed Dujana and Ismail, Lashkar has become leaderless… that helped Jaish to take centrestage. All fidayeen attacks carried out over the last year were done by Jaish.”
These include Lethpora (December 31, 2017); Pulwama (August 27, 2017) and the attack on 182 batallion of BSF outside Srinagar airport (October 3, 2017).
Khan said that Jaish’s revival in Kashmir took place after two of their groups infiltrated through Kupwara. “One big group infiltrated via Poonch (in Jammu province) too. This happened last August,’’ he said. “We have killed around 13 from those groups. The rest are still around”.
Woman killed in Pak shelling
Jammu: A woman was killed in Balnoi sector of Mendhar on Thursday evening as Pakistani troops continued resorting to unprovoked mortar shelling along the Line of Control in Poonch district of J&K. The woman has been identified as Zainab Bi, 45, police said, adding that she was sitting outside her house when a mortar shell fell nearby. ENS