January 2000 News

Pak plans Kargil II

30 January 2000
Asian Age
A.K. Dhar

New Delh: The Pakistan Army has reportedly planned a major Kargil-type offensive in the coming months aimed at cutting off large formations of Indian forces in Jammu and Kashmir, according to a former aide to a top Taliban commander. Pakistani military planners have directed big mercenary groups to attempt to cut off the Jammu-Srinagar and Jammu-Poonch highways in a bid to isolate troops stationed on the LoC. They have asked large groups of mercenaries to concentrate on lightly-held heights of the Pir Panjal range straddling the two highways. A former close aide of a top Taliban commander, Maulvi Abdul Rasul Rab Sayyaf, who recently left Afghanistan for sanctuary in the West, said preparations and plotting of a proposed offensive were undertaken by ISI commanders at the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen-run Khawar Zilli camps in Afghanistan's Khost province recently.

"The ISI has or may be in the process of infiltrating regular Pakistani soldiers in mufti to lead and direct these operations, and Pakistani military planners might raise the stakes by arming mercenaries with light artillery guns and 84 and 120mm mortars for the offensive," the Taliban aide said. Self-styled commander-in-chief of the Hezb-ul-Mujahideen, Syed Salhuddin, alias Mohammed Yusuf, who now is housed in Muzzaffarabad, Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, by the ISI, was recently quoted by Pakistani papers as threatening that mercenary groups on the Kargil pattern were ready to launch major attacks to cut off Indian border troops from their rear bases. According to military strategists here, Pakistan's aim could be to attempt to bring the two national highways under threat of their artillery, making movement of vehicles difficult if not possible.

While the big mercenary groups have been told to occupy vital heights straddling the two highways, Pakistani military planners are plotting to pin down border troops on the LoC by heavy engagement from across the Line of Control. The Afghan aide said a large number of Harkat and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba mercenaries, who infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir during the Kargil conflict, had been directed to build huge mountain cave defences on heights overlooking the two highways for heavy mortars and light artillery guns. The aide said the Harkat camps at Khost were shared with the group led by wanted Saudi terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, who might have imparted expertise in building mountain cave defences to the Harkat group. During the Afghan campaign against Russian forces, Bin Laden was known for his expertise in building mountain cave defences and ammunition dumps. The Afghan aide said the ISI had summoned major commanders of the Harkat-ul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e Tayabba and Al Badr groups to the Khost conclave to finalise the offensive. The new drive by the freed top Harkat commander, Maulana Masood Azhar, to form a unified mercenary group under the label of the Lashkar-e-Muhammadi, is part of the efforts to coordinate the groups. (PTI)


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