Updated: June 23, 2018 8:48:06 am
Jammu and Kashmir DGP S P Vaid on Friday said that the four militants killed by security forces at Khiram Srigufara in south Kashmir were from Islamic State of Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK). The Home Ministry, however, has officially denied — in a statement in Parliament — the presence of IS or any of its affiliates in Kashmir.
Security establishment sources said this denial was largely on technical grounds of IS not maintaining any defined organisational structure in the Valley and absence of a chain of command transcending borders. The argument has been that ISJK has no organisational chord with IS in Iraq and Syria.
There has been a steady stream of Kashmiri youths, albeit in small numbers as of now, who are joining the outfit through self-proclamation, said sources. They are mostly former operatives of other groups such as Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba who were disillusioned by their former outfits and impressed by the IS’s online propaganda.
“In actual terms IS presence in Kashmir cannot be denied, even if it is yet to carry out any spectacular attack because of the scattered nature of its operatives in the Valley. There are youths who are getting attracted by its pan-Islamic ideology and appointing themselves as its operatives. Some of them are even carrying out small attacks. But it’s not a big force. While IS has expressed its intentions to expand to Kashmir, it is yet to make any impressive foray through establishment of a robust organisation,” a Home Ministry official said.
He insisted that ISJK had no connection with the parent outfit run by Iyad al Baghdadi and was not being managed by handlers from outside the Valley or even receiving resources from elsewhere. The four militants who were killed have been identified as ISJK chief Dawood Salafi alias Burhan from HMT Srinagar, Majeed Manzoor from Talangam village in Pulwama district, Adil Hassan Mir and Ashraf Itoo, both from Srigufwara in Anantnag.
This is not the first time that ISJK has come on the radar of security forces. In February, one policeman was killed in Kashmir in a militant attack with the attacker being identified as Eisa Fazili. Vaid had then too said that it was an attack by the IS. Fazili was gunned down in March. He was earlier an operative of both Hizb and Lashkar. Social media channels affiliated to the IS hailed him as an IS martyr.
In November 2017, a J&K policeman and a militant identified as Mughees were killed in an encounter in Srinagar. Amaq, IS’s news agency, had then claimed the attacker was an IS operative. The claims were brushed aside by the police as propaganda. It said that Mughees belonged to Tehreek-e-Mujahideen, one of the first militant groups to take shape in Kashmir in the early 1990s.
Also in mid-2017, an online entity identifying itself as Ansarul Khilafah Jammu Kashmir owing allegiance to IS had given a call to Kashmiri policemen to join jihad. Notably, an IS propaganda channel specially focused on Kashmir is already in operation in the Valley for some time. Called Al Qarrar, the channel has been spreading Kashmir-centric motivational literature and claiming attacks. Recently it claimed militants identified as Fidoos and Sameer killed in an encounter as IS martyrs.
In posts on Telegram channels, through articles and videos, it has not only claimed allegiance to IS but also called Hurriyat leaders Kafirs for supporting democracy and calling Shias Muslims. It has also called on Kashmiris to fight both Indian and Pakistan armies as both are apostates. It has called on Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind to join hands with IS. It is opposed to LeT and Hizb and has severely criticised Pakistan army for supporting Afghan Taliban, which has made security agencies suspect it could be an offshoot of IS in Afghanistan which is part of IS Khorasan.
Kashmir had figured in IS crosshairs way back in 2014, when a Khorasan map by the outfit had shown Kashmir and Gujarat as part of IS dominion. Among the first people to join IS in Syria was a Kashmiri — a youth from Srinagar who was reported to have joined the IS in 2013. Adil Fayaz Vaid went to University of Queensland, Australia, in 2010. He is suspected to have got in touch with some Syria-based groups and then joined IS.
Later, IS flags waved by locals in protest rallies through 2015-16 were brushed aside by security agencies as a way of irritating security forces and not as a sign of youths getting attracted to IS ideology. In February 2016, IS Khorasan made an announcement of expansion into Kashmir. The 13th issue of IS’s official magazine Dabiq had said that IS was committed to “expanding to Kashmir to fight the cow-worshipping Hindus and the apostates from factions allied to the idol-worshippers of Pakistan, such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba”.
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