February 2002 News

Al-Qaida men spotted in J&K

10 February 2002
The Statesman
Srinjoy Chowdhury

New Delhi: A large group of suspected Al-Qaida militants have been spotted in Pakistan along the India-Pakistan border, while a few are already in Jammu and Kashmir, according to senior Army officers. A group of Pakistanis who were once with the Al-Qaida have already moved into Baramulla. Over a hundred militants have been spotted in Pakistan, opposite Poonch and Rajouri in the Jammu region. The passes are still open in the area despite the winter. “We still don’t know whether they are Afghans or Kashmiris or Pakistanis. They have been there for a while,” a senior officer said. The group that moved into Baramulla was identified about a month ago. “They may have moved in from Afghanistan but they are not proper Taliban,” the officer said. Al- Qaida militants came from all parts of the world, some of them even being Chechens. That apart, the decrease in terrorist activity in the Valley is well-known. Army sources said there is a considerable decrease in the amount of directions made on radio to the militants from across the border. The militants also lack funds. Army officers said fewer radio or signals contacts between the militants and their “masters” have been made in recent times. As a result, the militants have begun extorting money to make up for the inflow. “This is very good in the long run. It will annoy locals and help to alienate them in the long run,” the officer said. While there has been a noticeable drop in militancy since the Pakistani President, General Pervez Musharraf’s speech, it could also be because of the heavy snow that has closed all passes in northern J&K. “It is too short a period to tell whether there has been a real decrease or it is just a temporary thing. We have intercepted messages telling the militants to lie low,” the officer said. This is evident in the number of “kills” the Army is achieving in its encounters. Though the number is not as high as 200 as was the case several months ago, it has remained in the range of 160 to 170, “a sufficiently substantial number,” he said. Pakistani shelling, which helps militants to infiltrate is still continuing along the Line of Control, particularly north of Poonch.


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