August 1999 News

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Lashkar-e-Taiba vows jehad

4 August 1999
The Indian Express

In a three-room apartment near Hasan Square in Karachi's East District, 15-20 bearded boys treat their colleagues who have returned from jehad in Occupied Kashmir. Another batch prepares to leave, indicating that "all is not over" for them despite the recent accord between President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The apartment is the local office of the Lashkar-e-Taiba in Karachi.

Some of the more seriously injured are taken to the nearby hospital; others are looked after at the office. Those who have returned from the hospital narrate their experiences of the battles in the Kargil sector. All of them desire to become martyrs in the cause of Allah. There is a deep sense of camaraderie. They call each other with the Kunniyyat Abu (reference to the son's name among the Arabs.).

They say they put the Indian Army on the defensive and remain confident of the "final victory." "Two of my colleagues were martyred. I survived even though the Indians thought I was also killed," says Abu Nasser, who sits in a wheelchair because a mine explosion has damaged his left leg.

"I have fought for over a year and want to be in Kashmir at the time of our victory," he adds.

He says that the mujahideen began to keep a fast after being surrounded by the Indian army and began to run low on rations. "We survived because of our faith in Allah. Every time we killed an Indian soldier, we called out Allah o' Akbar (God is great). Our mission is not just Srinagar. We have to capture New Delhi," says Naseer.

Some boys aged 16-20 walk in to get their names registered. Would they be sent out without training? One of the organisers Umer Farooq says the recruits are first interviewed for their knowledge of Islam and belief in jehad. "Later we send them for askari(military) training before entrusting them with a mission," says Farooq.

He says that Karachi sends out 15-20 mujahideen every week. About 100 such mujahideen from Sindh join the jehad and other freedom fighters every month. "We have some 800 offices all over the country and each office sends out more or less the same number of people. We are not short of manpower or resources because people give us funds voluntarily, "Farooq says, pointing to a Karachi industrialist who provides them with funds and also serves as one of their think-tanks. "They are so well trained that they can even fire the Stringers," the businessman says.

Abu Hafiz Mohammad is a veteran of the jehad in Afghanistan and Kashmir. He was recently injuried in the Kargil conflict and came to Karachi for treatment. "I got my military training in Afghanistan I now train the boys before allowing them to go to Kashmir," Mohammad says.

One of the basic tenets of our training is the pledge that our cadre of freedom fighters will not use arms within the country and will not join any sectarian or ethnic group. We train mujahideen to fight the enemies of Islam, not to take up arms against brothers in faith," says Hafiz, refuting suggestions that their armed cadre could be dangerous for internal stability.

Hafiz says the Lashkar cadres are trained in the use of infantry tactics and small arms - from hand guns to assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. Even shoulder-fired SAMs like the Stringers kosher.

When asked about liaison with other groups like the Al-badar or the Hizbul Mujahideen, the Lashkar activist says: "We have a system to determine the arrival of a fresh batch of fighters. We also use wireless. Moreover, most groups operate in specific areas. These areas are controlled by them." He says there's no rift among the various groups. "We have a common objective: to eliminate the enemy and liberate Kashmir. So all the groups always cooperate."

Hafiz says the recent operation in Kargil was led by the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and described it as a major achievement. "Takeover of Kargil means 70 per cent victory in occupied Kashmir and it was evident from the Indian reaction. Withdrawal from Kargil will be suicide," he says. (He was interviewed just before the withdrawal from Kargil).

20 year old Hashim says: "I was inspired by the Afghan jehad. If we could defeat the Soviets, why can't we defeat the Indians."

The Lashkar leaders say that the people who attend the funerals of martyrs become so emotionally attached with the mission that they join the group. "But we recruit only those persons who fulfill the basic conditions of jehad," he says.

The Lashkar office is decorated with the list of martyrs. There's also a list of the Indian soldiers who have been killed. Smoking is strictly prohibited. A young boy is all smiles as be declares that he has been permitted to take part in the jehad. "I want to be remembered as martyr," he says.

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