The United Jihad Council (UJC) – a coalition of militant outfits headed by Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin – on Monday claimed responsibility for the terror attack on the Pathankot airbase in Punjab. However, a home ministry official rejected the contention – terming it as a diversionary tactic.
According to CNS, a local news agency, UJC spokesperson Syed Sadaqat Hussain stated in an e-mail that the attack was carried out by Kashmiri militants associated with the ‘Highway Squad’. Alleging that the Indian government and its media suffer from “Pakistan-phobia”, Hussain said: “By accusing Pakistan of every attack, India could not succeed in maligning the Kashmir Freedom Struggle in the past. And it will not get anything through its malicious propaganda in the future either.”
Nevertheless, doubts were raised over the UJC’s claim because the phone calls made by some of the Pathankot attackers to Pakistani numbers were already known to Indian security agencies as that of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM).
The UJC – a conglomerate of as many as 15 militant organisations, including the Hizbul Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Ansar, Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, Al-Jihad, Al-Barq, Al-Badr, Ikhwan-ul-Mussalmin and Tehrik-ul-Mujahideen – was formed in 1994 as part of an ISI-backed initiative to unite militant organisations across Kashmir. Though the Lashkar-e-Taiba and JeM were also part of the group when it was formed, they were pushed to the background after being banned in Pakistan. As the “liberation” of Kashmir is their primary aim, the UJC has tried to distance itself from pan-Islamic terror organisations since inception.
The e-mail went on to add that no Indian agency was safe from UJC agents. “The attack on the Pathankot airbase by the Kashmiri mujhadeen goes to show that no Indian security establishment or garrison is out of their reach. Instead of accusing Pakistan, India should read the writing on the wall and – without wasting any time – provide Kashmiris with the opportunity to decide their own future,” it stated.
Besides five militants, seven Indian security personnel – including an official of the National Security Guard and an IAF Garud commando – were killed in the Pathankot airbase attack, which began on Saturday.