Forces on alert to foil infiltration bids
Known for its war-time exposure in Afghanistan, the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HuM), considered “dead on the Kashmir front” since its split in 1999, “is being revived to start operations” in the Valley.
A note generated by intelligence agencies on the basis of communication intercepts suggests that HuM commander Masood Shaheen alias Masood Talibani has started operating from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’s (PoK) Palandari area. “Talibani is commanding the (armed) groups and trying to push them into this side of Kashmir,” reads the note.
Multiple intelligence agencies on November 11 warned the Border Security Force (BSF) and the Army manning the forward posts in north Kashmir, especially the Line of Control passing through Kupwara and Uri, “to remain alert and stop the battle-hardened group from entering the Kashmir Valley.”
“There is movement of a [HuM] team of 10 to 12 militants opposite the Macchil sector in Kupwara,” the intelligence groups warned. They said the HuM is in touch with the largest indigenous militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideeen and that its first field commander Hassan Askari “has already set up its base in the Valley.”
A counter-insurgency official said Pakistan handlers are “re-managing militancy in an attempt to ratchet up operations” in Kashmir.
“First Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) was pushed to take centre stage in terms of command of attacks in south Kashmir and groups like Hizb and Lashkar sidelined. Now, HuM, which has Afghan war veterans as trainers, is being revived. It’s not a good signal from Pakistan,” said the official.
HuM men are widely known to have fought in Afghanistan from 1989 up to 2001. In Kashmir, it was accused of abduction of five Western tourists through Al-Faran in July 1995.
Senior HuM members Maulana Masood Azhar and Omar Sheikh were released on December 24, 1999 in exchange for hijacked Indian plane passengers.
Thereafter, Azhar launched his own Kashmir-centric militant outfit JeM and the HuM became defunct.