November 26, 2008 11:54:04 pm
The death of British terror plot suspect Rashid Rauf in North Waziristan last Friday in a US missile strike along with four other al-Qaeda members has confirmed a dangerous development — the trouble-stricken Waziristan region has become the new battlefield for Kashmiri militants who are increasingly joining hands with the anti-US and pro-Taliban elements there.
Rashid Rauf, a close relative of Maulana Masood Azhar, the chief of Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), was killed along with al-Qaeda leaders Abu Nasr Al-Misri and Abu Zubair Al-Masri after their rented hideout was spotted due to frequent use of a mobile phone.
Pakistani government sources claimed the missile attack was lined up by their intelligence services which tipped off their American counterparts about Rauf’s whereabouts, who was the main target of the attack. But media reports emanating from the US claimed that the actual targets of the missile strike were some most wanted al-Qaeda leaders, two of whom died on the spot.
Much before the death of the al-Qaeda-linked fugitive Kashmiri militant, Pakistani authorities had informed those at the helm of the affairs in Islamabad that the changing government policy on Kashmir had forced many of the Kashmiri militant groups to gradually shift their fighters to the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan.
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Information collected by Pakistani authorities indicates the presence of fighters belonging to at least four Kashmiri militant groups — the Harkatul Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) led by Maulana Ilyas Kashmiri, the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) led by Maulana Masood Azhar, the Harkatul Mujahideen (HuM) led by Pir Syed Salahuddin and the Jamatul Furqaan (JuF) led by Maulana Abdul Jabbar.
Kashmiri of HuJI has established a training camp in the Razmak area of Waziristan, shifting most of his fighters from his Kotli training camp which is 20 km from Kotli (PoK). The Hizbul Mujahideen, the brand name of Kashmir militancy because of being the largest and the most important in terms of effectiveness, established contacts with many Afghan Mujahideen groups such as the Hizb-e-Islami of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, under which some of its cadre received arms training at camps in Afghanistan.
On September 11, Afghanistan-based American forces targeted with a missile an alleged training camp of the Al-Badar, a Kashmiri militant group which was being aided by the Hizb-e-Islami. Unmanned Predator aircraft reportedly launched several missiles at a target in the village of Tol Khel on the outskirts of Miramshah, the administrative seat of North Waziristan. Twelve members of the Al-Badar were reported killed in the attack.
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