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May 30, 1999
In Pakistan, terrorists train to wage war in India
In the mountains of Pakistan, thousands of Islamic militants prepare for terrorism next door in India.
They crawl on their bellies, plant land mines and practice marksmanship.
Militants are training at dozens of camps in Pakistani territory.
Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi, chief of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, said there is no shortage of recruits.
The mother organization of his group, the Markaz-ud-dawa-wal-irshad, runs 2,200 religious schools across Pakistan where its students learn Islam and prepare for militancy in Kashmir, he said.
"We train 600 to 700 men every month in the summer, and we have to turn many more away because we just don't have the facilities,'' said Mohammed Azam, an instructor at the Lashkar training camp.
Lakhvi met with a journalist on condition the location of his hideout and training camps not be revealed.
"Only Pakistani people help through donations, and many join their ranks,'' he said.
Most forms of light entertainment, including music and television, are banned. The men, all in untrimmed beards, don't allow photographs. They wear the traditional baggy pants and long shirt. Western clothes are forbidden.
The training includes sabotage techniques, hit-and-run raids and shooting skills as well as hours of studying the Koran.
At one camp, 200 young militants with Kalashnikov assault rifles learned how to conduct an ambush. Metal containers were set up about 70 yards down a hill to simulate a convoy of Indian army trucks.
"Be alert, the Indian vehicles are coming. Closer. They are in range. ... Fire now,'' the group leader shouted.
A young boy screamed, "Allah-o-Akbar!" and the trainees charged toward the cans, pumping bullets into the imaginary convoy below. When they reached the containers, three young men planted bombs.
They raced back up the hill, firing over their shoulders as they scampered for cover. Explosions shook the forest, destroying most of the metal containers.
The young men, generally ranging in age from 17 to 25, are often from poor families and some join despite objections from their families.
"My parents opposed me when I decided to come here for training,'' said Wali Mohammed, 21, son of a poor day laborer in Muzaffarabad.
Over the next three months, Mohammed, who dropped out of school, will learn how to raid Indian army posts, plant bombs, read maps, climb mountains and survive in the wilderness for days with neither food nor water.
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