Harkat ul-Ansar is a terrorist organisation active in Jammu and Kashmir and operating from Muzaffarabad in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) with the sole aim of annexing J&K and merging it with Pakistan. The formation of Harkat ul-Ansar (HuA) in October 1993 was facilitated by the merger of Harakat ul-Jihad al-Islami and Harakat ul-Mujahedin. The group is led by Maulana Saadatullah Khan.
The HuA came into limelight following the kidnapping of foreigners from J&K and its close association with terror mastermind Osama bin Laden, that forced the US Government to declare it a terrorist group in the year 1997.
After being declared a terrorist outfit, the HuA renamed its cadre as Harkat ul-Mujahideen as an eyewash and in a bid to evade the watchful international community in its operations and financial transactions. The cadre strength of HuA is basically comprised of Pakistanis and Afghan fighters. To further its pan-Islamic ideology, the HuA has been operational in Bosnia, Myanmar and Tajikistan apart from Jammu and Kashmir.
Maulana Masood Azhar, the founder of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Omar Sheikh who were released in exchange of the Indian Airlines IC 814 passengers on December 31, 1999 were active members of HuA. Masood Azar had entered India from Bangladesh in order to coordinate between the terrorist groups operating in J&K while Omar Sheikh, who now faces death sentence in Pakistan for the kidnapping and murder of journalist Daniel Pearl was involved in the kidnapping of foreigners in J&K.
The HuA trains its militants in Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of Kashmir. Harkat leadership is reportedly working with Osama Bin Laden. At least seven HUA members were killed and two dozen were wounded during hte 1998 attack on Bin Ladin's training camps inside Afghanistan.
The HuA collects donations from sympathizers in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf and Islamic states and from Pakistanis and Kashmiris. The source and amount of HuA's military funding are unknown.
According to the Jane's Intelligence Review (JIR) of October 1997 describes in some detail, the HuA and the Taliban share common origins, personnel and especially patrons. The latter include Pakistan's obscurantist JuI faction; an Afghan mercenary warlord now in Taliban hire; Arab extremists; and above all, Pakistan's main spy service, the Inter Services Intelligence directorate (ISI):
"The origins of the HUA can be found in 1982 along Pakistan's western borders. ...[Its current leader] Fazl Rahman Khalil founded the HUA's parent organisation, the Harakat ul-Mujahideen [from which] the HUA inherited not only its leader but also its underlying spirit and and a considerable quantity of arms and personnel ...[they] were based mainly in the Khost region, in Paktia province, and participated in military operations conducted by the main regional commander, Jalaluddin Haqqani.
"[T]wo essential features ... characterise today's HUA. The first of these [is] its links with mainstream politics in Pakistan, namely the Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islami (JUI) fundamentalist party ...[Their leaders] have from the outset shared a common view of politics and religion ... both share a conviction ... in the organised opposition to 'enemies of Islam': the West, India and Israel ... The USA is seen as 'the biggest enemy of Islam' and one which has been free to undermine the Muslim world since the disintegration of the Soviet Union.
"The alliance between the HUA and JUI-F has led one Western intelligence analyst to describe the HUA as 'essentially the armed wing of the JUI'...
"[This] also helps account for the strong international links that currently characterise the HUA ... According to [the US State Department report] Patterns of Global Terrorism, the HUA specifically 'includes Afghans and Arab members of the Afghan war' ...
"[T]he Western analysts who today monitor the HUA harbour no doubt that the complicity of ISI is more than merely passive. The HUA owes its considerable arsenal in large measure to the generosity of the Pakistani Government or, more specifically, its intelligence service. 'We know without any doubt that Harakat ul-Ansar is very heavily backed by ISI,' said an intelligence source in Islamabad recently."