India’s military has intensified operations against the Pakistan-sponsored Kashmiri Mujahideen groups still active in Indian-administered Kashmir. In recent days, a top-ranking commander of the militant al-Badr movement, Abu Tamim, was killed in an encounter with Indian security forces in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir (Times of India, [New Delhi], January 15). Indian officials announced that Abu Tamim, a Pakistani national (a.k.a. Sanaullah), was killed only days after the arrest of Mohammad Ahsan Dar, a top militant commander of Hizb ul-Mujahideen (HM) (Kashmir Observer, January 15). There were also reports that some top commanders of al-Badr, Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) were hiding in fortified bunkers in the caves of Jammu and Kashmir (The Hindu, [New Delhi] January 5).
Al-Badr is the first jihadi organization to have introduced suicide attacks into the sub-continent. Though it ranks fourth after LeT, JeM, and HM in terms of strength and operational capability, its suicide squad has increased its capacity to carry out devastating terrorist attacks. Al-Badr has its headquarters in the Mansehra district of the North-West Frontier Province, with Pashtuns making up the largest part of al-Badr (Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies [New Delhi], November 6, 2006). Al Badr aims to “liberate” the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir and merge it into Pakistan. It was banned by the government of India on April 1, 2002, and is also designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States. Al-Badr was an active participant in the Indo-Pakistani Kargil war of 1999.
Since 1989, Kashmir has seen a growing, and often violent, Muslim separatist movement against Indian rule. Al-Badr is one such group with close links to other Kashmiri separatists and Islamist movements, including the LeT, accused of massive terrorist attacks in Mumbai last year. There are a number of signs indicating the two groups often work in tandem. In two separate incidents last year, Indian police arrested individuals belonging to al-Badr and LeT who were on joint missions in Kupwara district. Similarly, in 2005 two militants were killed during an encounter that ensued after security forces launched a raid on a terrorist hideout where ten cadres of al-Badr, LeT, and JeM were holding a meeting in the Bandipore area of Baramulla district (South Asia Terrorism Portal, India).
In their battle against the Kashmir militants, Indian security forces have targeted leading militants over the last year. In gunbattles in the Shopian district of the Indian-administered Kashmir, Indian police killed six militants and two soldiers (The Hindu, January 21, 2008; Press Trust of India, January 21, 2008). During one week in April, Indian security forces killed two leading Hizb ul-Mujahideen commanders in the Anantnag district of south Kashmir and arrested five leading members of the group, including commander and IED expert Rayees Ahmad Dar and Junaid ul-Islam, who is believed to have also taken part in the Afghan war and was a spokesman for Hizb-ul-Mujahideen for some 15 years (Times of India, April 3, 2008)
The LeT was also a target of Indian security forces last year, though this did not seem to affect the group’s ability to plan and stage a major terrorist operation. The Indian army killed four militants of LeT in a fierce gun battle with militants in Baramulla and Hundwara districts. The militants were identified as Abu Khalid (a.k.a. Abdullah), Abu Mujahid, Usma Nhai, and Abu Jibran. The Indian military revealed that Usma was an important militant and the District Commander of the LeT in Northern Kashmir (The Hindu, June 2, 2008). In another offensive against militants in several places in Srinagar, Indian forces killed some eight militants belonging to LeT. Indian forces claimed to have recovered a huge cache of ammunition from their possession (BBC, June 22, 2008). A further nine LeT militants were killed trying to infiltrate Indian Kashmir in September (OutlookIndia.com, September 1, 2008).
Despite the peace efforts and diplomatic initiatives between Pakistan and India in recent years, there has been no end in sight to the insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir. Some jihadi groups want a totally independent State of the Jammu and Kashmir while others demand its merger with Pakistan. Since 1989, over a dozen jihadi groups have joined the fighting in Kashmir, which has left tens of thousands of people dead. The two nuclear-armed rivals – Pakistan and India – have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since gaining independence in 1947.