Posters have appeared in Gujranwala town announcing that the Lashkar-e-Taiba will be holding last rites in absentia for one of the four terrorists who attacked the Indian Army’s 12 Brigade at Uri, killing 20 soldiers and sparking off the worst India-Pakistan crisis in years. The posters are the first hard evidence for Indian allegations that the attacks were carried out by a Pakistan-based jihadist group — until now been denied by Islamabad.
The posters name one perpetrator as Gujranwala resident Muhammad Anas, who operated under the alias Abu Siraqa. They invite local residents to join namaaz prayers for the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s “lion-hearted holy warrior Abu Siraqa Muhammad Anas, who sent 177 Hindu soldiers to hell at the Uri Brigade camp in occupied Kashmir, and thus drank from the glass of martyrdom”.
Bearing images of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the head of the Lashkar-e-Taiba’s parent organisation, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the posters say the ghaybana namaaz janaza, or last rites held in the absence of the body of the deceased, will be held at Bada Nullah, near Girjakh, in the Punjab town of Gujranwala.
Though Indian officials had blamed the Jaish-e-Muhammad for the Uri attack in the days after the strike, The Indian Express had first reported that investigators believed the unit involved belonged to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, based on the codes the assault team had used to speak with their commanders. It was not clear if similar functions had been, or would be, held elsewhere in Pakistan for the other terrorists killed in the Uri attacks. Few reports on activities involving jihadist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba appear in Pakistan’s press, particularly when they occur outside major cities.
National Investigations Agency detectives had struggled to identify the perpetrators of the assault, or produce evidence of the group that carried out the attack, until posters appeared in Gujranwala. Two German-manufactured eTrex global positioning sets had been recovered from the attackers, but one was too badly damaged by fire for data to be retrieved. A second is still being studied by forensic experts.
Though syringes, painkillers, other medications and packets of ready-to-eat food carried by the terrorists bore the markings of several Pakistani manufacturers, linking the perpetrators to that country, these offered no evidence on the identity or affiliations of the terrorists themselves.
Government sources said two men arrested on charges of helping facilitate the infiltration of the group—Ahsan Khursheed and Faisal Awan—continued to provide contradictory testimony, showing little knowledge of the specifics of the attack.
“It is possible they were transborder traffickers,” a source familiar with the investigation said, “but that they were not familiar with this particular operation”.
Lashkar teams have staged a series of increasingly bold attacks on Indian military units over the past year, notably one on soldiers of 24 Punjab Regiment and 31 Field Regiment near Uri last year, which claimed the lives of eight soldiers and three police personnel. In that case, global positioning set data showed the team had originated in the town of Chham, across the Line of Control, but the perpetrators remain unidentified.
Indian intelligence services and the Jammu and Kashmir Police have, however, arrested Pakistani nationals alleged to be tasked with staging similar attacks, including Muhammad Naveed and Bahadur Ali.
The Jaish-e-Muhammad, for its part, has focussed on operations outside of Jammu and Kashmir, notably the attacks on Pathankot and Gurdaspur. The organisations, intelligence sources said, had brought prestige to the organisations on Pakistan’s religious right.
Earlier this year, The Indian Express revealed video footage showing the organisation, ostensibly banned by Pakistan, collecting funds for jihad outside mosques in Karachi as police stood by watching.