|Indian security officials say Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government and the army have been pushing terror groups in Kashmir to forge operational synergy. |
Once the gunfight was over and the police officers started running background checks on the three suspected terrorists in south Kashmir’s Shopian district earlier this month, they discovered that the three men fighting them did not belong to one terrorist group but two: the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Al-Badr. They weren’t surprised.
Security agencies had been reporting for some time that Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence had been pushing terrorist groups in Jammu and Kashmir to work together. And there had been evidence on ground that Islamabad’s push to build synergy among terror groups may be working on the ground.
The 7 October encounter was the third instance in two months that the police had eliminated a joint team of terrorists in Kashmir valley.
Intelligence inputs reviewed by Hindustan Times indicate that Pakistan Army’s efforts to forge operational synergy between the terrorist groups such as Hizbul, Jaish-e-Mohammed and the Lashkar-e-Taiba had been continuing since August 2019 when Islamabad had floated The Resistance Front (TRF), a new terror group with a Kashmiri face. That mask, however, didn’t work very well on ground, a fact that appears to have persuaded the Pakistan Army to rely on the Hizbul, which had the reputation of being a terror group comprising local Kashmiris.
It was in this context that the Pakistan Army decided in May this year to tweak its strategy and promote the Hizbul Mujahideen, letting it take responsibility for terror strikes in the Kashmir valley.
Besides, the terror groups have also been told by Pakistan to pool resources, right from manpower to explosives, an instruction that unusually translates into coordinated attacks on security installations.
A senior police officer said the security establishment was conscious of the attempts to unite the terror groups but intended to counter the Pakistani gameplan with intelligence-driven operations. “It is not a coincidence that nearly 200 terrorists have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir,” the official said. This list includes 27 foreign terrorists, mostly Pakistani nationals linked to the Jaish or the Lashkar.
In all, security forces have eliminated 33 terrorists in 17 encounters since September 1 including the one in Pulwama on Tuesday that led to the elimination of three Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists in a four-hour-long encounter.
According to details accessed by Hindustan Times, 13 belonged to the Hizbul Mujahideen, 11 to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, 4 were affiliated with Al-Badr while 3 were linked to the Jaish-e-Mohammed. The remaining two could not be categorised under any terror outfit.