Kashmir: Islamic State claims responsibility of Soura attack 

Amaq News Agency, an official website of IS, has claimed responsibility for one of the two killings carried out by some unidentified militants on Sunday

Photo courtesy: IANS
Photo courtesy: IANS

Gulzar Bhat

The statement of Islamic State (IS) claiming responsibility for the February 25 attack in Srinagar has fuelled fears over possible presence of IS in Kashmir. The J&K police, however, hasn’t yet established that IS was directly involved in the attack.

Two policemen were shot dead by terrorists in two separate attacks on February 25. One at a police post near the Charar-e-Shareef shrine and another outside the residence of a Hurriyat leader. In both cases, militants decamped with the service rifle of the deceased policeman.

Amaq News Agency, an official website of IS, claimed responsibility for one of the two killings carried out by unidentified militants on February 25 and published the image of a weapon snatched from the deceased cop. It claimed it had killed Constable Farooq Ahmad Yatoo, who was guarding separatist Fazal Haq Qureshi at his residence in Bilal Colony in Srinagar's Soura area when he was attacked.

The Union government, however, on Tuesday sought to downplay the issue of presence of the Islamic State (IS) in Jammu and Kashmir, saying the terror group had no existence in the Valley.

“There is no physical infrastructure or manpower of the IS in the Valley. It does not exist in the Valley,” a Home Ministry spokesperson said.

Earlier in November 2017, the organisation had owned responsibility for the Zakura police station attack, which resulted in the killing of a J&K police sub inspector. A local militant Mugheez Ahmad was also killed in the retaliatory action.

Although police continue to deny the footprints of any such global terrorist outfit in Kashmir, the fresh statement could become a cause of considerable consternation and bafflement among the security agencies.

Director General of Police SP Vaid was quoted by local daily Greater Kashmir as saying “since it is on their website and they have displayed image of snatched weapon. They are claiming it…unless we catch (the accused militant)…we can’t say anything.”

A valley-based security analyst, who didn’t wish to be named, said that such repeated claims were surely a cause of concern for the security establishment. “It is the second time when Islamic State has made such a claim. It is surely a concern for security agencies here. They can’t simply shrug such claims off,” he said.

Extremists are gaining ground

An ideological shift has been witnessed among the militants in recent past, with new far-radical militia groups surfacing on the trouble- torn landscape.

In 2017, for the first time over the past more than two decades of turmoil in the Valley, global terrorist outfit Al-Qaeda constituted its affiliate, Ansar Gazwa-ul-Hind headed by Zakir Ahmad Bhat alias Zakir Musa in Kashmir. The group supports the establishment of a caliphate in Kashmir, instead of merely seeking a separate nation state. The group however, could attract barely a few militants towards its ranks. But the growing popularity of Musa among the youth continues to cause much consternation to security agencies. There has also been a sharp spurt in the number of militant attacks.

During the last three months, militants have struck veritably in a big way— around six times—killing at least 20 security personnel and causing injuries to many.

Revival of Jaish-e-Mohammad

Militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad led by Moulana Masood Azhar— which had halted its operations in the Valley following the “War on Terror” by US in 2001—is reviving at a rather swift pace. According to intelligence sources, JeM has not only revived itself but has taken the front stage in the ongoing militant attacks in the Valley.

“Their revival is quite evident from the recent attacks. They were involved in all big terrorist attacks in the state” said an intelligence officer on condition of anonymity.

Pertinently, Nayeem Akhtar, Jammu and Kashmir Works Minister recently claimed in an interview with the Indian Express that Beijing had now “adopted” JeM.

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