March 2002 News

Pak-based militants reorganising in valley

7 March 2002
The Indian Express
Nasir Malick

Islamabad: Pakistan-based United Jehad Council is consolidating militant groups fighting in Kashmir valley and has decided to become more focused in the separatist drive, a source said on Thursday. ''The United Jihad (or holy war) Council has decided in principle to cut down the number of parties to between seven and nine for coordinating their activities in a more organised manner,'' a spokesman for one of the groups, told Reuters. The source, who asked not to be identified, said the council, an umbrella organisation of 15 extremist groups, this week expelled Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba, two militant groups blamed for the attack on Indian Parliament on December 13. However, the source added that the council had told leaders of Jaish and Lashkar to quietly join Kashmir-based groups to circumvent the clampdown on militant organisations based in Pakistan. He said Jaish and Lashkar and other smaller groups have been asked to merge with outfits such as Tehrik-ul-Mujahideen and al Omar, meaning that in reality there would be no let-up in the fighting against Indian rule. The move comes two months after Pakistan announced a clampdown on militants, shutting their offices and banned Jaish and Lashkar. ''I believe only Tehrik-ul-Mujahideen, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, al-Barq, Tehrik-e-Jihad, al Omar and Islamic Front will operate (in Indian- controlled Kashmir) in the new set up,'' the source said, adding: ''This should have been done several years ago.'' Hizb-ul- Mujahideen is viewed as the main separatist group in the Valley and is believed to have thousands of fighters in Pakistan''s portion of Kashmir. Pakistan''s Jamaat-e-Islami, a political party which is not part of the United Jihad Council but supports the struggle for Kashmiri independence, said it was not aware of the decision but said it would help to stop undue criticism of militant groups. ''The move will help to shut up those levelling allegations (of terrorism) against these groups,'' party secretary-general Munawwar Hassan said on Wednesday.


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