January 2003 News

Hizb Threatens PDP As Mufti Repackages SOG

18 January 2003
The Hindustan Times

Srinagar: Accusing the Mufti government of reneging on its promise of disbanding Special Operations Group (SOG) in J&K, pro-Pakistan terrorist outfit Hizbul Mujahideen on Saturday threatened to target the office bearers of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP). The PDP-led government has not fulfilled its electoral promise of disbanding SOG, operational commander of the outfit Saiful Islam told local news agency Nafa in a faxed statement in Srinagar. 'If Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed does not mend his ways, we are capable of targeting his party's office bearers,' he said. Mufti, who is following the policy of giving a 'healing touch' to the situation in the state, had promised to dismantle the much-hated police counter- insurgency force SOG, which residents accuse of abuses ranging from extortion to murder. But under pressure from its coalition partner, the Congress, and certain other quarters Mufti has maintained that the force will only be 'reoriented.' J&K to soon have counter- insurgency force The state police is now launching a new counter- insurgency force to deal with infiltrating jehadis, a step being seen as a step towards neutralising the SOG. Members of the force, which will be called the Jammu Kashmir Voluntary Force, will have special commando training, said Additional Director General of Police Rajan Bakshi. 'The state government had forwarded a proposal for setting up such a force and it has been approved,' Bakshi said. The first phase will consist of a unit of 500 personnel. He said recruitment would be voluntary from among 22,000 special police officers (SPOs) and village defence committee (VDC) members who have experience of counter-insurgency operations. SPOs are usually former militants who work with counter-insurgency units of the army, police and para- military, while VDCs are villagers who volunteer to fight against militants and are mostly Hindus. Three months special training, focussing on jungle warfare, will be given to the members. Small teams of five to 10 personnel from the force will be attached to police stations in militancy-prone areas. Bakshi said the force would function under a police officer of the rank of Superintendent of Police of a district and the government hoped it would boost the fight against militants as it would be 'well-versed with the topography and language of the area.'


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