Sunday, June 26th, 2016

Pampore attack casts in sharp relief the new militant challenge in Kashmir

Rizwan Ahmad | June 26, 2016 3:50 pm Print
Eight CRPF personnel died and around 22 were injured in Saturday's ambush. Following the attack security forces cordoned off the area and began combing operations. Two militants who may have been part of the group are suspected to have fled towards Srinagar. A high alert was sounded across the city

The modus operandi of the Pampore attack in Kashmir was the same as the June 2013 strike near Hyderpora when a group of four Lashker militants led by their now slain commander Abu Qasim ambushed an Army convoy, killing eleven jawans. The attack had in a sense portended the arrival of the new age militancy spearheaded by a new generation of Kashmiris. And it has been about a lesser number of militants creating a deadlier impact on the security situation. Lashker later posted the video of the Hyderpora attack 0n Youtube, apparently to get more recruits to their ranks.

And the militancy has since steadily picked up, with more local youth enlisting for jihad. In 2015 for the first time the number of the local militants outnumbered the foreigners: Around 88 of the 142 militants active were local Kashmiris. The rest were from Pakistan and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

Pampore is just 5 kilometres away from Hyderpora and on the same highway. The militants ambushed the CRPF convoy of 161 battalion at Frestbal Pampore at around 4.30 by firing indiscriminately at a 52- seater bus which was part of the convoy of nearly half a dozen vehicles returning to their base in Srinagar after a practice session at Lethpora Pulwama firing range.

The attack was once again owned by the Lashker-i-Toiba. LeT spokesperson Dr Abdullah Ghaznavi in a statement to a local news agency said that two militants belonging to the Fidayeen squad of the outfit attacked the CRPF bus on highway. “It was a successful attack and such attacks will continue in future,” he said.

Dr Ghaznavi said that both the militants responsible for the attack “attained martyrdom”. The militants are suspected to be Pakistanis.

Eight CRPF personnel died and around 22 were injured in the ambush. Following the attack police, Army and CRPF men cordoned off the area and carried out extensive search operation. Security sources said that they suspect that the two more militants may have part of the group, who fled towards Srinagar. A high alert was sounded across the city.

Incidentally, the attack took place on the same day Chief Minister Mehbooba  won the by-poll in Anantnag by a massive margin of 12000 votes in a low-turnout election in which only 28,500 voted against 84,000 eligible voters.

But while PDP-BJP coalition has struggled to settle into a new relationship under Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, the violence has steeply shot up. In the last five months, the security forces have killed 54 militants in different encounters across Kashmir and in operations along the Line of Control. Fourteen security personnel, including two Army captains and four policemen were also killed, according to the data presented by the government in the Assembly. The figure excludes the Pampore killings and killings on Friday in Kupwara where seven militants were gunned down in three separate encounters.

During the same period, the security forces also apprehended 37 militants or suspects from different parts of the state.

In 2015, 108 militants were killed by the security forces in the state, whereas 39 security personnel died and 103 were injured in anti-insurgency operations.

The militant figures revealed by the government for 2016 are identical to the last year. Around 145 militants are active in Valley out of which 91 are locals and 54 foreigners.

Though the number of the militants is disproportionately smaller than their number in the nineties, which was in thousands, the amount of violence being generated on an almost daily basis now is huge. In recent months, the militant strategy has been to launch high-profile strikes within the state in urban places which increases their impact manifold. One major advantage of this strategy is that this can be executed by a less number of professionally-trained militants.

Pampore attack also attests to an increase in the infiltration and more influx of the foreign militants, which has added a new sting to the 26 year old jihad. The militants, both local and foreign, have already struck deep into Srinagar and now also on the busiest, and the highly guarded highway passing through the summer capital.

Rizwan Ahmad