Mohammad Ashraf Dar, the first Kashmiri militant who died fighting with Al-Qaeda militants in North Waziristan in Pakistan, had left home to join Hizbul Mujahideen 15 years ago.
On Wednesday, a police party from the local police station showed Dar’s families his pictures from the Al Qaeda-website, asking them for his identification. The outfit’s website claims “Shaheed Mohammad Ashraf alias Umar Kashmiri, a resident of Anantnag (Islamabad on the website) in Indian Kashmir, was killed in January 2015.” The website had also uploaded a video of Dar reciting Urdu couplets professing Jihad.
Dar is the only known Kashmiri militant who has died fighting for Al-Qaeda of allied groups. Dar’s brother Nazir Ahmad said it was in December 2014 that he had spoken to the family for the last time.
According to the family members, Dar was a regular teenager, who would spend time at his brother’s shop and local mosque and showed no inclinations towards militancy till he disappeared one day.
“He left the family in 2001. It was after four months that we got to know he had gone across the border to join Hizbul Mujahideen,” Nazir said, adding that Dar had contacted his family first time in 2002 and was in regular touch since then. “Since 2009, he would call after every three to four months and say that he had gone to Afghanistan and calling wasn’t possible,” Nazir added.
The family said despite constant persuasion to “return home” Dar would refuse. “We always asked him to come back, but he refused. When his friends in Pakistan were getting married, we asked him to think of starting a family, but he would say he is dedicated to the cause,” Nazir said, adding, “There is no doubt that the person seen on the Al-Qaeda’s website is our brother. We are shattered.”
Dar is survived by two brothers and an ailing father. His mother had died a few years after he left home. The police in Kashmir, however, have refused to confirm Dar’s identity.