Al-Umar threatens JK truce supporters
23 February 2001
The Indian Express
Srinagar: A leading pro-Pakistan Islamic militant Friday issued a death threat against any Kashmiri separatist leader supporting the Indian government's ceasefire. Mushtaq Zargar, head of the Al-Umar Mujahideen and one of the militant leaders released by India following the 1999 hijacking of an airliner to Afghanistan, made the threat in a phone call to AFP. He specifically warned members of the All Party Hurriyat Conference (APHC), an alliance of some two dozen separatist groups in Indian-controlled Kashmir who have until now given guarded support to India's truce. "Those leaders, including Hurriyat Conference leaders, supporting the ceasefire should arrange coffins for themselves," Mushtaq said. "The blood of thousands of Kashmiri martyrs will not be allowed to go to waste and any traitor to the Kashmir movement will face death from the Mujahideen." The threat came one day after the Indian government extended for three months its suspension of combat operations against militant groups in Kashmir, a move rejected by all the armed groups fighting Indian rule. It also came a day after Hurriyat chairman Abdul Ghani Bhat claimed he had narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. Most Hurriyat leaders have welcomed India's ceasefire initiative, although they have been strongly critical of the way it has been implemented and the lack other confidence building measures. Mushtaq, one of the founding fathers of the uprising in Indian-controlled Kashmir which has claimed at least 34,000 lives since 1989, denied his group was behind the attack on Bhat. Zargar's Al-Umar Mujahideen was very active in the early 1990s, but has been quiet his arrest in 1992 along with six other prominent members. He was among three key Muslim militants freed by India on December 1999 in return for release of 160 passengers on an Indian Airlines Airbus hijacked to the Afghani city of Kandahar. "I am back in Kashmir and have reorganized my group," said Mushtaq, who has claimed his group took part in this month's bold attack on city of Srinagar main police station. Indian intelligence sources said Al Umar was now working with other powerful pan-Islamic groups such as Lashker-e-Taiba and Jash-e-Muhammed. Kashmir is divided into Indian and Pakistani zones and is claimed by both countries. While many Islamic militant groups are fighting to unify all of Kashmir under Pakistan's rule, other Kashmiri separatist leaders want independence for the Himalayan region.