In what could be the first such case, a Kashmiri fighter belonging to the al Qaeda group has reportedly been killed in a drone attack in Pakistan in January this year. The killing of Mohammad Ashraf Dar has also been confirmed by the Al Qaeda in Subcontinent (AQIS).
In a video called ‘Memories of Jihad’, produced by al Qaeda’s media arm As-Sahab, the AQIS has shown Dar reciting Jihadi poetry and claimed he was killed in a drone attack in north Waziristan on January 23 this year.
Unaware of this development, his family at Nagam village in south Kashmir’s Anantnag were startled on Wednesday night when some police officers came knocking on their door, asking about Dar.
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“They (policemen) showed me his photo and asked me to confirm whether the man in the picture is my brother,” said Nazir Ahmad Dar, Ashraf’s elder brother, adding, “And when I confirmed the picture of my brother, they left without saying anything.”
The bad news was finally broken to the Dars by the media on Friday — that Ashraf, who had left home 14 years ago to “fight Indian occupation”, has been killed in a drone attack on an al Qaeda target in north Waziristan in Pakistan. Ashraf hadn’t informed his family about his decision to join the global terror outfit; for them he was still with the Hizbul Mujahideen.
But he had dropped some hints a few years ago. “All these years, he would call us every week or once in a fortnight,” said Nazir. “But for the last three years, he would call after two or three months. When we asked for a reason, he would say he has to frequently move to Afghanistan and other areas and that causes the delay,” he added.
For the past many months, the Dars were waiting for the call that never came. The last call came in December 2014, a month before he was killed in the drone attack.
Nazir said he remembers the exact date when his younger brother, who used to help him at his shop in the village, went missing — August 23, 2001. After searching for him initially, the family was informed that Dar had crossed over to Pakistan. The confirmation came four months later when he called from across the border. He had transformed into Shameem, his new militant name.
“I don’t know how he joined the al Qaeda. He didn’t have that bent of mind,” said his elder brother. “Something changed him there (in Pakistan).”
Nazir said he tried many times to persuade his brother to return to Kashmir or marry in Pakistan. “He didn’t listen,” he added.
The family doesn’t know how to react to the news of his death, which was broken by the al Qaeda on its Twitter handle.
“We will discuss it at home first and then decide,” Nazir said, adding that the family may “offer a funeral in absentia for him. What else can we do?”