ISJK in Kashmir linked to Pakistan: NIA

The Islamic State in Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK) has a Pakistani connection, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has said in its chargesheet filed recently in a Jammu court. The agency, however, does not substantiate how it reached the conclusion about the Pakistani identity of the handler of the four ISJK “terrorists” arrested last year.

The NIA filed a chargesheet against four active cadre of the Islamic State in Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK) — Tahir Ahmad Khan, Haris Mushtaq Khan, Asif Suhail Nadaf and Asif Majid — on May 22.

The four were arrested by a Delhi Police team in Srinagar on November 25 last year. The action followed the arrest and interrogation of two men affiliated to the ISJK in the national capital on September 6.

The NIA said Tahir, Haris and Asif Nadaf were active terrorists of IS, “which shows the existence of IS in JK.” The chargesheet identifies Nadaf as a “chronic stone pelter”. Tahir also has criminal cases registered against him. They are accused of lobbing grenades in Srinagar on November 24 last year when they tried to attack a tourist reception centre.

Differing opinions

Various security agencies have so far offered differing perspectives on the presence of Islamic State in J&K. For instance, on June 22 last year, after four terrorists were killed in an encounter in South Kashmir’s Anantnag, Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) S.P. Pani, told that those killed were part of a “terrorist gang” only inspired by the IS ideology.

“This terrorist gang is as good as that in Hyderabad or Kerala, they were inspired by the IS. It is not a terrorist group as the infrastructure and hierarchy, the kind of logistical support such groups provide to their members is not there,” Mr. Pani had said.

Now the 28-page chargesheet sets the debate at rest and provides the first official confirmation of the presence of the outfit in Kashmir Valley. According to the NIA the locals acted as over-ground workers and knowingly or unknowingly provided logistics to the ISJK cadres.

It says two of the accused, Tahir and Haris, were in touch with an online entity called Abu Huzefa, “an active cadre of IS based in Afghanistan.” The NIA said Huzefa was a Pakistani but offered few other details. “Online chats of Tahir show he was in touch with Daulat-e-Islamia (DeI) or IS and other militant groups,” NIA said in its chargesheet.

Another suspect Haris, who was active on social media groups also came in touch with Huzefa, the Pakistani entity. “He used to receive IS literature from Huzefa. Haris joined the group after the death [in 2016] of Burhan Wani,” the NIA. said.

Most ISJK members were previously associated with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen and Hizb-ul Mujahideen.

In 2014, pamphlets appeared in Pakistan’s Peshawar where IS introduced itself as DeI. The pamphlet made an appeal to locals to support its jihad for making Pakistan an Islamic state.

The NIA says “chats revealed his (Tahir) willingness to join IS and that he was a supporter of Zakir Musa, chief of al-Qaeda-affiliate Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind. He was in contact with an online entity @aslutawheed7 on Telegram. The entity asked him to contact Musa’s outfit and convince its cadres to join DeI.”

On May 24 this year, Musa was killed in an encounter at Dadsara in Pulwama.

The United Jihad Council, which includes the Hizbul Mujahideen, has accused ISJK of “creating confusion” and warned of “dire consequences.”

On February 12, the Union Home Ministry informed Lok Sabha that no specific connection surfaced between ISJK and the groups operating in Iraq and Syria. The then Minister of State for Home Hansraj Gangaram Ahir said “seven local youths have joined ISJK through self proclamation.”

NIA said its investigation “unearthed a larger conspiracy of these terrorist elements propagating pan-Islamic ideology of IS by recruiting and radicalising Kashmiri youth towards jihad and targeting security forces.”

Last year as many as 10 ISJK militants were killed in the Valley. The police insist that ISJKs cadre strength was in single digits in Kashmir and was limited to unfurling of black flags at the funerals of militants.

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