Raising new army in Kashmir, Lashkar turns to rural homes

For that outcome, Pakistan’s intelligence services have already begun to prime organisations like the Jaish-e-Muhammad.

Written by Praveen Swami | New Delhi | Updated: February 14, 2017 6:54 pm
lashkar, lashkar e taiba, terror group, pakistan lashkar, pakistan lashkar bank accounts, fake bank accounts, UN security council, Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, Balochistan Water Project, fake facebook, lashkar facebook, lashkar social media, indian express, india news, india pakistan terrorism That could yet become a possibility, though, if Pakistan’s fears of facing sanctions from the United States’ new administration are realised. (Representational image)

Last Friday morning, Manzoor Ahmad Magray huddled in a corner of the mosque in the south Kashmir village of Nowpora Payeen, clutching a pistol and a grenade, thinking about whether his life might be redeemed by death. The police, waiting outside, sent in his father, an ageing agricultural labourer, to urge his son to come out; officers, as well as village notables, assured the teenager he would be treated well. This wasn’t the way his friends in the Lashkar-e-Taiba had taught him: the road to redemption and manhood went to death.

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Ever since Pakistani authorities placed Lashkar chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed under house arrest last week — he is yet to face criminal prosecution though — there’s been no sign that its training facilities for Kashmir jihadists are being shut down. That could yet become a possibility, though, if Pakistan’s fears of facing sanctions from the United States’ new administration are realised.

For that outcome, Pakistan’s intelligence services have already begun to prime organisations like the Jaish-e-Muhammad. But more important, they’re turning to a new generation of jihadists inside Kashmir, like Magray: in the main, children from underprivileged rural homes, who have grown up battling Indian forces with stones on the streets of Kashmir.

Last Friday, the prayers of an elderly father and the compassion of Jammu and Kashmir Police officers kept a young man from meeting his end. There are record numbers of young Kashmiris in the Lashkar ranks, though: men who have never trained in a jihad camp, have had no contact with Islamist seminaries, but could yet turn into the terrorist group’s new army.

Indian intelligence services monitoring Lashkar’s operations across the Line of Control say Saeed’s detention has had no on-ground impact on the group’s training facilities and bases. The Markaz Taiba camp near Mansehra — alma mater to 26/11 attacker Muhammad Ajmal Kasab as well as Muhammad Naveed, captured alive last year — is still running, sources told The Indian Express. The group’s other major facilities in the area, like the camp at Atter Sheesha, are also reported to be active.

The oldest Lashkar facilities near Muzaffarabad are also still running, Indian intelligence believes: Umm-ul-Qura (which trained several Indian nationals including alleged Indian Mujahideen operative Sadiq Israr Sheikh), Aqsa and the Abdullah Bin Masood camp, which offers specialised training.

Following the 26/11 attacks, several of these camps were shut down, amidst fears India might use air power to retaliate against the Lashkar. However, the camps soon resumed functioning again. Muzammil Bhat, a one-time Lashkar commander in Kashmir who played a key role in the planning and execution of the 26/11 attacks, is thought to have been given a large role in the group’s operations.

In November, following India’s strikes across the Line of Control, the Lashkar reorganised some of its organisational apparatus, juggling the guides who take groups into Kashmir, and making efforts to camouflage homes where groups shelter for the last stage of their journey more effectively. However, the impact of these changes is yet to be felt.

“Little infiltration has taken place this last month because of heavy snowfall,” an Indian intelligence official notes, “and there was dislocation before that because of the cross-Line of Control strikes after Uri. But we think the Lashkar will step it up a little after the snow settles down.”

The long-term plan, though, appears to be to make the Lashkar inside Kashmir autonomous of its Pakistani leadership. “The recruits we’ve arrested give us a picture of two Lashkars, almost,” says one police officer, “a Pakistani Lashkar which focuses on fidayeen strikes and attacks on the Srinagar-Jammu highway, and a Kashmiri Lashkar which has been told to recruit among local communities, intimidate local workers of the PDP or National Conference, and so on.”

Led by Abid Magray, a childhood friend of Manzoor Magray and resident of Nowpora Payeen, the Lashkar unit rarely left the small belt of Pulwama its members grew up in, police officers familiar with the case say. They had all joined together when protests against India began after Hizbul commander Burhan Wani was killed in 2016, and looked to their cohort of stone-throwing teenagers to draw from.

Few in the group, though, had a gun; none were trained in using one. There was no education in the tradecraft of insurgency, like surviving in jungle conditions, evading detection, using explosives or planning ambushes. “For now,” an Indian intelligence officer says, “the Lashkar is just flying its flag. The next stage will be getting resources to this fledgling army.”

The core Lashkar leadership in Kashmir, led in Kashmir by a jihadist code-named Abu Dujana, has offered neither training nor weapons to the group, police say; instead, it was left largely to its own means. “They did not consult even on their day-to-day plans,” an officer who questioned Magray said, “possibly because they did not want to be compromised.”

Bar the first two Lashkar commanders in Kashmir, Abu Maaz and Muzammil Bhat, who returned to Pakistan, the rest — Qari Saifullah, Abdul Reshman, Atif, a second Abdul Rehman and Qasim — died in combat in the state.

Like Magray, the 30-odd Lashkar recruits in south Kashmir — approximately a third of the total number of ethnic-Kashmir jihadists in the region — almost all hail from families of rural workers and small peasants. None are known to have ties to Islamist organisations like the Jamiat Ahle-Hadees or Jama’at-e-Islami, traditionally though of as the ideological powerhouses behind jihadist groups in the state.

The profile of the jihadists is curiously similar to the mainly ethnic-Punjabi jihadists that Don Rassler, Christine Fair and others profiled in the only detailed study of the Lashkar’s membership. The typical volunteer, they found, was educated to about 10th-grade level, with relatively little religious knowledge, with a mean age of 16, typical dying around the age of 21, soon after they joined the organisation.

For many of the the Lashkar’s new army, life in jihad proves less than attractive: inside days of joining up, Magray hid out near his village, tiring of the hardships of being hunted by police in the nearby forests.

“The police are reaching out to families of these recruits to tell them we’ll welcome their kids home,” a senior officer says. “The Lashkar’s problem here is that it doesn’t have the camps and infrastructure it needs to produce Kashmiri Ajmal Kasabs, and we think keeping the door open will allow us to save the lives of both these kids and their potential victims.”

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  1. B
    Burman
    Feb 10, 2017 at 2:14 am
    RECENT TRAIN ACCIDENTS IN UP ROLE OF ISI WAS FOUND . LOCAL SLEEPER CELLS SHOULD ALSO BE CHECKED ABD ROLE OF LEADERS LIKE AAZAM
    Reply
    1. J
      Jai Hind
      Feb 10, 2017 at 2:05 am
      For every soldier or civilian they kill in Jammu and Kashmir kill 1000 Muslims in rest of India. Also let's plan to execute the 1947 act where we gave Muslims land for themselves and they would have all moved to stan. Time has come to move all Muslims to stan and Bangladesh.
      Reply
      1. M
        Michellegt;Vedicgt;human
        Feb 10, 2017 at 4:07 am
        More-homo-mad Jinnah a Hindu convert Muslim son of METHI BEN POONJA and JINNAH BHAI POONJA,---created PORKISTAN and now convert porkistanis after realising Hindu ancestroul roots created agony and anger being fooled by desert Arabian mullah's and that now its a bit too late to rivert Back to their original Hindu ancestory is the reason they have no other choice but turn to terrorism and remain as forced fooled slave to WAHABIS,-----Jai hind...
        Reply
        1. I
          Irfan
          Feb 10, 2017 at 7:49 am
          he worst form of terrorism is state sponsored terrorism which we ksshmiris r facing from past many decades !!!! democracy without accountability is useless n consution without consutionalism is meaningless both these factors r completely missing in kashmir so for us india is the world's worst democracy !!!! forget about fundamental rights we ppl don't have basic human rights n u ppl demand respect from us for ur consution n flag under which we ppl r being hared on daily basis !!!! the thing which hurt us more is the criminal silence by the civil society of india on gross human rights violation by ur security forces in kashmir !!!!! n for us they r not less than terrorists because they terrorise us on daily basis !!!!! india stop this terrorism revoke afspa psa n demilitarise our paradise which is now being converted in world's largest open air prision !!!!
          Reply
          1. J
            Jai hind
            Feb 10, 2017 at 9:57 am
            Good some one turned out to be a savior for Muslims who are really awe struck reading all filthy comments written here by peace haters .. 😊 .... Those who write here knows the truth that terrorism and the real Islam has nothing to do with each other .. But still they pretend to be unaware to promote their masters ..Any ways ..kehtha hai lt;br/gt;" Bujhne wali dia bahot zor SE jalne lagta hai ". I think this hatred for Muslims are going to have an end soon
            Reply
            1. J
              Jai hind
              Feb 10, 2017 at 9:50 am
              Jinnah was A Hindu ? 😨😨thats a new contribution to my knowledge chip ...
              Reply
              1. J
                Jai hind
                Feb 10, 2017 at 9:59 am
                Tere konsa pa*ppa NE tujhe ye sik*haya ? 😂😂😂 Dono ko special school bejna chahie
                Reply
                1. J
                  Jai hind
                  Feb 10, 2017 at 10:03 am
                  Wo KUTTA NAHI .KUTTAS ARE WISE
                  Reply
                  1. J
                    Jai hind
                    Feb 10, 2017 at 10:01 am
                    😂😂😂😂😂 DONT DERAIL THR DIGNITY OF UR PARTY BY SUCH A STUPID COMMENT .... MAY B ITS SOME ONE LIKE YOU WHO WORE SCULL CAP AND APPEARED BFRE CAM ....TO DEGRADE THEM ....
                    Reply
                    1. D
                      devender
                      Feb 10, 2017 at 2:20 am
                      MUSLIM DO NOT BELEIVE IN NATIONALITY... ONLY ISLAM
                      Reply
                      1. P
                        Parveez
                        Feb 10, 2017 at 6:44 am
                        Mis informative Journalism. The Militants killed by Indian Troops are mostly of well off families . The guys are educated from reputed private insutions and are mostly post graduates ,engineers and Scientists. So to say they are rural poor youths are only to mislead Indian citizens. Please correct ground realities.
                        Reply
                        1. K
                          Kumar
                          Feb 11, 2017 at 7:09 pm
                          Prosecution will not happen because (s) of criminal who destro Babri Masjid is walking free, same thing will happen in stan also.
                          Reply
                          1. R
                            RW911
                            Mar 13, 2017 at 1:15 pm
                            Then stop throwing stones at the world's 2nd largest country. Learn from the Northeast India, their progress lies in India, just like yours. And we will respect your rights and your privileges but first you have to give up violence and separatism.
                            Reply
                            1. L
                              Lalit Mohan
                              Feb 10, 2017 at 12:24 am
                              Do you only these news to create fear and hatred in people?
                              Reply
                              1. M
                                Mahender Goriganti
                                Feb 10, 2017 at 1:55 am
                                Evict all Muslims form Kashmiri on national security grounds, and put them in concentration camps. Not so difficult especially if we start with a declaration of 'with 5 miles of all border areas'. That will cost much less and save a lot of solders and other resources needs at border to concentrate on other areas. .
                                Reply
                                1. M
                                  Mahender Goriganti
                                  Feb 10, 2017 at 2:00 am
                                  Police and military should start liquidating any suspect by just making them disappear (self defence) to save themselves from the con Kashmir government and political and fundamental actors. officers should support them by all means irrespective of what the government rules are.
                                  Reply
                                  1. M
                                    Mohan
                                    Feb 10, 2017 at 5:04 am
                                    The media and UPA should own up responsibility for not exposing the local support that Kasab and co received during terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008. The NDA is also equally responsible in not exposing those local support despite now being in power for 20 months. If we don't punish the killers, anti nationals and tax evaders swiftly and severely we will for ever remain a banana republic and sitting ducks.
                                    Reply
                                    1. M
                                      Mohan
                                      Feb 10, 2017 at 4:52 am
                                      it is amusing to see the so called liberal newspapers"" and (in)civil society members who were always beating the drums for the Wani's of the world and always berated the Indian security forces, have suddenly woken up to the security threat that too from the "poor" rural Kashmiris. Why?? the free Briyani's and air free tickets to stan and invite to stan emby got dried up or what?
                                      Reply
                                      1. V
                                        Vivek narain
                                        Feb 10, 2017 at 4:01 am
                                        The stubborn punjabis of stan as well as india,need to be crushed.
                                        Reply
                                        1. B
                                          Baloch
                                          Feb 10, 2017 at 3:00 am
                                          stan has more hatred for Indian Muslims than for Hindus.lt;br/gt;Because they are the ones who made Mockery of philosophy of JINNAH THE B****C**** that Hindus and Muslims can't live together.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Everytime TWO NATION THEORY gets spanked whenever a Porki Mulla sees Muslims and Hindus living happily together.
                                          Reply
                                          1. B
                                            Baloch
                                            Feb 10, 2017 at 2:48 am
                                            RSS ke (People Like you)is desh ko barbaad karke hi maanenge.
                                            Reply
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