Border Hots Up In Kashmir, Militancy Up As Amarnath Yatra Nears

Border Hots Up In Kashmir, Militancy Up As Amarnath Yatra Nears

16 June 2013
The New Indian Express
N C Bipindra

New Delhi: As summer heat melts the snow and the annual Amarnath Yatra nears, the India-Pakistan border is hotting up, with militant activity and their infiltration from across Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) on the rise, amid fears of increased terror strikes in Jammu and Kashmir and more ceasefire violations by Pakistan Army along the Line of Control (LoC). In sign of things to come, security forces have had over half-a-dozen armed encounters and have killed 15 terrorists in armed battles, most of them in South Kashmir, since January 2013. The number of infiltration attempts during this period too has witnessed a spurt, compared to figures of the last two years, sources in Indian intelligence and security agencies told The Sunday Standard. Of the 350 Pakistan-trained terrorists operating in Kashmir at present, over 60 per cent are of foreign origin and belong to Pakistan-based terror outfits such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HuM). Most of these terrorists-coming from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Algeria, Sudan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia-are active north of the Pirpanjal mountain range. The Indian intelligence agencies’ assessment is that despite a peace offer from the newly-elected Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, militancy in the border state will only witness an increase this year. “We have witnessed a spurt in militant activity in the last one month. That can be gauged from the number of terrorists killed during this period. Most of these encounters have happened in South Kashmir, possibly due to the pressure we have exerted on their activity in North Kashmir,” a senior official handling Kashmir security said. “Since Amarnath Yatra attracts a large number of pilgrims, it is usually one of the primary targets of the militants, who build up their activity as the pilgrimage nears,” he said. Indian security forces have lost 19 personnel, both in encounters and ceasefire violations, including the gruesome beheading of two Indian Army soldiers by Pakistani commandos just after New Year. Since January, there has been nearly 50 ceasefire violations by Pakistan Army along the 740-km LoC, but the enemy fire has been targeted at the Poonch-Rajouri axis, which seems to be the focus area of terror groups to infiltrate into Jammu and Kashmir this year. The latest ceasefire violations were reported in Poonch on June 7 and Krishna Ghatti on June 10 and 11. In the Poonch incident, India lost a junior commissioned officer of the Indian Army when Pakistani troops fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. India retaliated to the attack in a controlled manner. In the Krishna Ghatti sector, small arms were fired by Pakistani troops at Indian positions. Indian troops did not retaliate and there were no casualties in the two incidents there. On June 1 and 2, the Indian troopers fought terror groups in Kupwara and Shopian districts, when they killed five terrorists in all, including HuM South Kashmir Divisional Commander and Financial Chief Sajad Yousuf Mir and Pulwama District Commander Mohammad Ashraf. On May 24 this year, four Indian Army toopers lost their lives when militants attacked them in Pulwama in South Kashmir. Indian troopers killed four militants in that encounter and interestingly, recovered Chinese-made pistols and walkie-talkie sets from them, indicating these military stores could either been drawn from Pakistan Army or stolen from them. Till December 2012, there were 41 terrorists training camps in PoK, but since January this year, 13 more terror camps and launch pads for infiltration have also been activated, intelligence inputs have suggested. Of these new camps, three-Shawai Nallah, Garhi Habibullah and Sensa-were reactivated this year after remaining closed for a couple of years now. Also, LeT’s political arm Jamaat-ud-Dawa has recently set up terror training camp infrastructure at Bhawalpur in Pakistan’s Punjab and have bought land in Sindh’s Khairpur (75 acres) and Karachi (50 acres) for the same purpose, the inputs suggested. As per available figures, there have been over 40 attempts at infiltration attempts by Pakistan-trained terrorists along the LoC between January and April. However, there were only 31 such attempts in 2012 and 17 attempts in 2011.