Released militants to lead poll disruption attacks
21 September 2002
The Times of India
Srinagar: Pakistan''s Inter-Services Intelligence and militant leadership is activating released militants to spread disturbance in Jammu and Kashmir in order to disrupt the remaining phases of polls in the state, intelligence sources said. ''It is easier for the released militants to carry out disruptive activities as security forces normally act soft on those who have already served jail terms for involvement in militancy-related activities,'' the sources said. The released militants normally carried the release orders from the jail authorities with them and engaged in some frontline business, which provided them cover and facilitated their movement in and around the city, they said. ''We have been keeping a close watch on the activities of these people and have found that many of the erstwhile militants have rejoined the Al-Umar ranks,'' they said. The sources said that ISI was particularly keen on reactivating Al-Umar Mujahideen militant outfit headed by Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar alias Latram to give a local flavour to the disruptive activities carried out by them. As Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad - the two most lethal militant organisations active in Jammu and Kashmir are known to be based in Pakistan - the ISI was also trying to revitalise Al- Umar, they said. The intelligence agencies got a wake up call following intercepts, which revealed that Latram had been put in overall charge of all militant organisations to carry out attacks to disrupt the democratic process in the state which began on September 16, the sources said. Latram has quite a following and is treated as a hero following several dare devil attacks on the security forces prior to his arrest and his subsequent release in exchange for the hostages of Indian Airlines IC-184 flight, which was hijacked from Kathmandu and taken to Kandahar. He was tapping his erstwhile cadres to strengthen his ranks, the sources said, adding Latram''s release along with Jaish chief Maulana Masood Azhar increased his proximity with the ISI. Acknowledging that the recent attacks on the candidates in Kupwara and Baramulla district was a matter of concern for intelligence and security agencies, the sources said that in all likelihood the attacks would intensify as the poll process entered the second phase in which Srinagar, Jammu and Budgam districts go to polls. A lot of attention is focused on Srinagar with numerous journalists representing national and international media organisations descending on it to cover the make or break polls here, they said, adding militants always looked for opportunities to make their presence felt.