Posters have appeared in the Pakistani town of Gujranwala announcing that the Lashkar-e-Taiba will hold the last rites in absentia for one of the four terrorists who attacked the Indian Army’s 12 Brigade at Uri, killing 18 soldiers and sparking the worst India-Pakistan crisis in years.
The posters are the first evidence that the attacks were carried out by a Pakistan-based jihadist group — until now denied by Islamabad.
The posters name one perpetrator as Gujranwala resident Muhammad Anas, who operated using 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”. (Lashkar literature routinely exaggerates the casualty count).
Bearing images of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the head of the Lashkar’s parent organisation, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the posters say the last rites will be held at Bada Nullah, near Girjakh, in Gujranwala.
Though Indian officials 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, based on the codes the assault team had used to speak with their commanders.
Two Garmin-manufactured GPS sets were recovered from the attackers but one was too badly damaged by fire for data to be retrieved. A second is being studied by forensic experts. Though syringes, painkillers 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 said, “but that they were not familiar with this particular operation”.
Lashkar teams have staged a series of increasingly daring attacks on Indian military units, 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, GPS data showed the team had originated in the town of Chham, across the Line of Control, but the perpetrators remain unidentified. 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 focused on operations outside of Jammu and Kashmir, notably the attacks in Pathankot and Gurdaspur.