November 2001 News

Army fears Taliban infiltration into J&K

30 November 2001
The Statesman
KAVITA SURI

Jammu: The sudden increase in “unprovoked heavy mortar and artillery shelling” by the Pakistani army on the border has led defence circles to speculate if it is aimed at providing cover to Taliban elements infiltrating into J&K. Military analysts have expressed fear that many Taliban recruits fleeing to Pakistan might be used to create trouble in the Kashmir Valley. But what gives credence to reports that the Taliban militia are on their way to J&K is the fact that recently groups of infiltrators, most of them foreign mercenaries, were killed on the LoC in Jammu sector. The Army is not ruling out the possibility of many of them being Taliban soldiers. Top defence officials based in Jammu also concede that the “sudden spurt” in firing from across the LoC is mainly directed at pushing a significant number of Taliban, who have reportedly landed across the LoC, into the state. “In view of the recent developments, Pakistan has no choice but to get rid of Taliban men by hook or crook. The best way is to divert them to J&K,” a defence analyst said. The weather condition now is ideal. Taliban men can sneak in before the closure of passes due to heavy snowfall. Brigadier PC Das, Brigadier, General Staff of the Nagotra-based 15 Corps of Indian Army, told The Statesman here today that the heavy firing and shelling on the LoC was “obviously” directed towards providing cover to infiltrators who may be Taliban men. “Yes, we apprehend that Taliban militants are likely to try to make their way into J&K”, he said. “However, we make little distinction between the Taliban and other foreign mercenaries fighting in J&K as Afghanis have been coming to this place since long,” he added, Taliban are more safe in J&K than in Pakistan or elsewhere because “to merge with the locals” in a system where there is safe sanctuary is quite easy. Besides, militant groups operating in the valley would guide them and provide them with logistical support. “After all, 50-55 per cent of terrorists operating in J&K are foreigners,” he added. Though groups like Hizbul Mujahideen have denied using training camps inside Afghanistan in recent years, the large number of Pakistanis fighting with the Taliban has provided a steady stream of experienced fighters to send to Kashmir. “Some of them have been killed in Afghanistan but many have returned and Hizbul Mujahideen can provide them support,” experts said. The Army foresees an active period ahead. “But we’ll try our best to ensure it doesn’t get worse,” Brigadier Das said.

 

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