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December 31, 1999
"Trained young men have been fighting in the Afghan jihad and in Kashmir... We are proud of them"
While the two British tourists were the main news, the Harkat, on June 13, 1994, issued a warning to all policemen associated with the anti-militancy task force to dissociate themselves from the force at the earliest. Those who refuse to pay heed will have to face dire consequences, the warning stated. There was no known case of a policeman leaving the task force.
A number of Harkat members, along with activists of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, were holed up in the town of Charar-i-Shareef between February and May, 1995. Its leading member was Abu Jindal. On the night of May 11, when most of the town and the shrine of Sheikh Noor-ud-Din was burnt down, Abu Jindal and his group were asked to provide fire cover so that the Hizb remnants under Mast Gul could break the Army cordon and escape, which they did. Abu Jindal and a few of his colleagues were captured on May 12, 1995. A week later, Harkat denied the official charge that it had planted land mines in the town and IEDs around the shrine complex.
Emboldened by the refusal of the Benazir Bhutto government in Pakistan to ban it as desired by the US administration, the Harkat-ul-Ansar warned India to desist from accusing it for terrorist acts in Kashmir. With the warning was the threat that HUA would undertake to plant bombs in different Indian cites and inflict incalculable damage. The threat was serious because now the Pakistan government was providing funds and logistics to some selected fundamentalist organisations to train a special cadre for subversion and militant related activities against "Islam's enemies." Credible reports had been received that the Harkat was one such organisation which was being patronised by the Pakistan government. Such organisations have admitted their role in militancy in Kashmir. One of the parent organisations of the HUA, the Sipah-e-Sahaba chief Maulana Azam Tariq said in Lahore in April, 1995, "The fact that these trained young men have been fighting in the Afghan jihad and in Kashmir is very positive. It is extremely reassuring that more and more Mujahideen are being born in Muslim ranks. We are proud of them."
In the end of January, 1996, the Harkat leadership asked owners of properties rented out to security forces to get them vacated, for they alleged "those were being used to torture Kashmiris." The threat to destroy them was also given if these were not got vacated.
It has been widely accepted in Kashmir and outside that the Al Faran organisation is an offshoot of the Harkat. Al Faran has been holding four foreign tourists hostage in the high mountains of south Kashmir since July 4, 1995. The Harkat has always denied this, but the allegation has stuck on. Appeals have been made to the Harkat leadership in Kashmir, as also in Pakistan, to use their influence with the Al Faran to release them now, even after one year had passed for them in captivity.
Harkat's chief commander Javed Ahmed Bhatt alias Sikander Khan, who is also known as Javed Dabrani, was killed in a vacant house in a locality in Anantnag town when an improvised explosive device exploded on February 17, 1996. Three of his associates were also killed. It was learnt later that Javed was fabricating an IED when it blew up. The Harkat, while condoling his untimely death, described him as "a courageous, pious and religious commander" who was an expert in fabricating mines and remote control bombs. Three days later, on February 20, 1996, the Harkat appointed Abu Ubaid as chief commander. He declared that the "Harkat-ul-Ansar has no connection with Al Faran, as we have said earlier also."
Its Doda district commander, Noor Mohammed, was arrested in the Thathri area of Doda on May 16, 1996. He was reported to be a police deserter and was involved in the killing of eight BSF jawans and in the killing of passengers of a bus in Kishtwar in 1994.
The US department report for 1994 had named the Harkat-ul-Ansar as an international terrorist organisation.
The Pakistan newspaper, News, had reported on February 13, 1996, that the Harkat headquarters in Pakistan had admitted that more than 200 of its members were killed in Kashmir upto February, 1995.
In August, 1997, the US was trying to track down a Saudi Arabian billionaire, Osama Bin Laden, who was believed to be a vital force behind all Moslem fundamentalist movements around the world. CNN, after interviewing Osama, said he was behind most Muslim uprisings. The Indian intelligence agencies believe he has been not only funding the HUA, but has also been helping to train their cadres in Afghanistan, which is reported to be his base at present.
Excerpted from Kashmir Underground by Sati Sahni, 1999, Har-Anand Publications, 520 pages, Rs 595, with the publisher's permission.
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