Rising IS role in Kashmir, finds NIA probe against 4 caught by chance
The Islamic State, Khorasan (ISK) has expanded to form a Kashmir-specific unit called Islamic State – Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK), the NIA has said in its charge sheet and added that the formation of the new entity was featured in Dabiq, a magazine run by IS, in 2016.Updated: Jun 17, 2019 14:08 IST
The Islamic State’s (IS) presence in Jammu and Kashmir has been registered in a charge sheet by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) filed in a Jammu court recently, noting a “gradual increase” in the outfit’s activity in the region.
The Islamic State, Khorasan (ISK) has expanded to form a Kashmir-specific unit called Islamic State – Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK), the NIA has said in its charge sheet and added that the formation of the new entity was featured in Dabiq, a magazine run by IS, in 2016.
Four people from Kashmir, including a student, a Srinagar-based businessperson and “copper artists”, formed the core of an ISJK module, according to NIA. They were, however, caught by chance, according to a sequence of events pieced together by NIA in the charge sheet. Stopped at a police check post at the Tourist Reception Centre in Srinagar in November 2018, they tried to escape by lobbing a grenade but were caught, NIA told the court.
Those named in the charge sheet by NIA were Tahir Ahmad Khan, 24, Haris Mushtaq Khan, 25, Asif Suhail Nadaf, 22, and Asif Majid Khan, 34. Interestingly, of the four accused, three had no previous criminal record. Only Asif Majid, the oldest of the four, had come to the notice of the police for stone throwing. Mushtaq, a student of English literature, was also pursuing political science and international studies when he disappeared. His father Mushtaq Ahmad Khan had even approached the police to trace his son, the NIA probe revealed.
“The presence of the Islamic State in J&K increased gradually” and “the Islamic State news agency Amaq claimed responsibility for an attack in Srinagar in November 2017”, NIA said in its charge sheet. It added that said the presence of IS in Jammu and Kashmir came to notice in 2016.
Security experts cautioned against taking the group’s presence lightly even if the danger it poses is second to Pakistan-backed militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which was behind the February 14 attack on a paramilitary convoy in Pulwama, and also last week’s ambush in which six CRPF troopers were killed in Anantnag.
“The concept of azadi [freedom] has mutated over the years. The Islamic State is already entrenched in Afghanistan. The recent Easter bombings show that they have spread to Sri Lanka too. I would be surprised if the ideology doesn’t have its impact in J&K,” said K Rajendra, former DGP of J&K.
A November 2017 attack in Srinagar in which a policeman was killed appeared to be the first IS-inspired attack in the Valley, NIA said. “The militant killed in the attack Mugees Ahmad Mir was inspired by IS propaganda,” the charge sheet said.
“There is an emotional connection with an ideology like that of the Islamic State, unlike that of the Al Qaeda...No one can predict who will get swayed by the IS ideology,” said Avinash Mohanani, a former Intelligence Bureau hand who spent many years in Jammu and Kashmir and in counterterror operations.
“The Easter bombings in Sri Lanka are proof of that... Traditional means of collecting intelligence will not work because one is not sure where to look and what to look for. The presence of IS in J&K will be a serious challenge.”
But unlike earlier IS modules unearthed in India where individuals were found to have been self-radicalised, this group was inducted by IS operatives from Jammu and Kashmir, NIA said.
For instance, Tahir was initiated into IS as an active member by Asif Nazir, a resident of Panzgam, Pulwama, NIA said. Ishfaq Ahmad and Parvez Ahmad – both IS militants killed in an encounter – taught the group of four how to handle weapons and explosives, NIA said. The charge sheet is silent on certain issues; for instance, where the module trained to handle explosives.
Besides Asif Nazir of Panzgam who indoctrinated the four accused to join the Islamic State, Huzafa – a shadowy figure from Afghanistan – appears to have played a critical role in nurturing the IS module, according to NIA.