Pakistan-based militant groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e- Mohammed (JeM) recruited the most number of locals from Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama both in 2018 and in 2019, according to a report prepared by security agencies and shared with the Prime Minister’s office, among others.
Forty Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) men were killed in Pulwama on February 14 when a suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a bus carrying the paramilitary troopers. JeM claimed responsibility for the attack.Describing the attack, the report, a copy of which has been accessed by Hindustan Times, says the “modus operandi is akin to Syria and Afghanistan.” The main militants behind the Pulwama attack – Pakistani nationals Rashid Ghazi alias Kamran and Farhad Butt – were killed in counter-terror operations on February 17 in Pulwama, the report adds.
About 63 locals were recruited from Pulwama in 2018 and two more this year. Shopian district was a distant second, with 46 locals joining militant groups in 2018, but none this year. The report says that the maximum number of militants killed in 2019 belonged to the JeM – 15 militants.
In comparison, 10 militants each of the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) and the LeT were killed in counter-terrorism operations this year. Last year, the JeM recruited about 33 locals from the Kashmir valley. In contrast HM and LeT recruited 79 and 66 local youth in 2018.
The JeM lost pre-eminence among Pakistan-based militant groups in the mid-2000s after Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) withdrew its patronage. The JeM fell out of favour after it tried to attack former Pakistan president Parvez Musharaff in 2003 and the 2007 faceoff at Lal Masjid in Islamabad, Pakistan. The abnormally high recruitment by JeM should have raised questions as to why security agencies failed to detect Pulwama suicide bomber ?
There were other strong indicators of increasing JeM activity in the valley. For instance, since 2018, the JeM carried out at least 30 attacks in J&K, according to figures provided by the J&K Police. In addition, “around 150 JeM militant are believed to have infiltrated between 2017-2018,” a senior Jammu and Kashmir police official who did not want to be named said.
According to J&K police, four days prior to the Pulwama strike, JeM militant lobbed grenades at Palladium Cinema in Srinagar, injuring 11 people. On January 25, 2019, JeM claimed responsibility for as many as eight consecutive grenade attacks.
JeM attacks continued all through 2018. For instance, on December 11, 2018, four police officers were mowed- down by JeM militants in Shopian. During last year’s month-long Ramzan ceasefire the JeM carried out as many as 10 terror attacks. In February last year, JeM militant also stormed the Sunjwan Army camp killing six including five soldiers of the Indian Army.
As per the report, the Line of Control – the 776-km long de facto border with Pakistan, will be “restive” in the coming months. The report has predicted that cease-fire violations or cross border firing will increase. Importantly, the report has warned that Pakistan could use “heavy caliber weapons” to inflict civilian casualties, carry out “cross border tactical action” and increase sniping to target Indian forces deployed along the border.
“The rise of the JeM was noted by the security agencies. It started with sudden rise of Afzal Guru squad in 2014. The rise of JeM is linked to the increased focus on LeT globally. The deep state just changed its terror delivery mechanism for greater deniability, “a senior officer in the security establishment whom did not want to be named said.(HT)