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SOURCE: Hindustan Times

A detailed intelligence assessment whose contents have been accessed with Hindustan Times shows that all is not quiet on India’s western (and north-western) fronts with Pakistan based terror groups trying to re-energize groups from the days of the Afghan jihad, create new fronts, and figure out new ways of targeting India.

It also shows that the terror groups are especially targeting the Sialkot-Shakargarh and Bhimber-Samahni sectors, with the Pakistani establishment supporting them with drone drops of weapons across the border, and boosting signals of mobile towers along the Line of Control to facilitate communication.

Pakistan-based terror groups have changed tactics by shifting the military (askari) training camps to the Af-Pak region, with their existing camps having been turned into religious indoctrination centres, adds the assessment – which, coming ahead of the crucial Paris Plenary of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), suggests that Pakistan is trying to window dress its adherence to the anti-terror-financing strictures of the body.

FATF’s meeting on Oct 21-23 will decide whether Pakistan remains in the “Grey List” due to inaction on part of Imran Khan government on proscribed terror groups and in curbing money laundering activities or be removed from it on the basis of facile action taken to escape the economic guillotine. The grey list (referred to as jurisdictions under increased monitoring by FATF) comprises countries whose systems aren’t strong enough to prevent money laundering or terror financing, but which have promised to work on addressing these issues.

According to the assessment, prepared by India’s national security planners, the change in strategy on part of the Pak-based groups, particularly the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) to shift terror training to camps around the Durand Line could also be aimed at operating in collusion with Afghanistan based Taliban and Haqqani Network (HN) groups following the signing of the US-Taliban-Afghan peace accord. The leader of HN is proscribed terrorist Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also the deputy leader of Taliban with control over Nangarhar and a strong presence in Kabul. He has a $5 million bounty on his head.

Other intelligence reports that corroborate this, suggest that while the Muridke- based LeT has been asked by the Pakistani deep state to maintain a low profile ahead of the Paris meeting, there has been no let-up in the terror activities of the Bahawalpur-based JeM with India being the primary target. The JeM has been infiltrating its cadre into Jammu and Kashmir on the one hand while planning joint terror strikes with its fellow Deobandi-ideologue, the Taliban in Afghanistan.

“The JeM has intensified its focus on Sialkot-Shakargarh and Bhimber-Samani sectors in Jammu in order to rachet up violence in the union territory,” said a senior counter-terrorism official who asked not to be named. The Sailkot-Shakargarh sector is a so-called chicken-neck area, and it, as well as the Bhimber-Samani sector are strategically important from the perspective of Indian defence. Not surprisingly, both routinely witness cross-border firing.

While the LeT is now being handled by 26/11 main accused Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Hafiz Saeed’s son Talha, JeM is a full-fledged Masoor Azhar family enterprise with his brother Mufti Rauf Asghar acting on behalf of the ailing Azhar, and other siblings including Maulana Ammar and Azhar Ibrahim working in tandem.

Apart from the two main terror outfits, the Pakistani deep state, upset with the international community for ignoring the August 5, 2019 abrogation of article 370 by the Modi government, is trying to re-energize groups active during the days of the Afghan jihad, and also create new fronts, which will also help it spin a narrative of home grown terrorism in the valley.

According to the intelligence assessment, the task of resurrecting the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen has been given to a serving colonel of Pakistan military intelligence with support from HUM chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil with the objective of shifting the focus from Afghanistan to J&K. Khalil currently resides in outskirts of Islamabad and runs a chain of madrassas known as Jamia Khalid bin-Al-Waleed in Pakistan. He has an umbilical jihadi chord with the Taliban and HN from the 1990s. In this context, Occupied Kashmir resident Maulana Mohammed Sajjad Shahid Kashmiri has been appointed the head of Tehreek-e-Millat-e-Islamiya (TMI), the Jammu and Kashmir chapter of the revived HuM.

Intelligence inputs suggest that Pakistani deep state is also trying to revive the 313 brigade, a 2008 splinter group from Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), which is much closer to Al Qaida than any Kashmiri terror group. Founded by Illyas Kashmiri, the handler of both Daniel Pearl murderer Omar Sheikh and 26/11 conspirator David Headley, the 313 brigade is currently being used by former LeT operatives Huzaifa Bhai, Obaid-ur-Rehmani Barlas Kashmiri and Sumama Bhai to recruit cadre in the valley through cyber platforms. The group is also promoting Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind (AGuH) after the elimination of Zakir Musa and Hamid Lehari by Indian security forces last year. Illyas Kashmiri was killed in a US drone strike in 2011.

Over the past two years , J&K has witnessed a spurt of new terror outfits such as “The Resistance Front”, TMI, AGuH and J&K Ghaznavi Force, all created to propagate the Pakistani narrative that terrorism in the union territory is indigenous and home grown. According to Indian counter terror experts, these outfits have been created out of LeT, HuM, HuJI members who underwent terror training in Pakistan but were not active on account of having been arrested, exposed or released after serving jail sentences in India.

In order to facilitate infiltration as well as provide secure communications to terrorists, Rawalpindi GHQ has resorted to aligning mobile communication towers along the Line of Control (LoC) to ensure the signal spills into Indian territory. Not only this, the signal strengths of two radio base stations at Pandu and Thub in Occupied Kashmir have been enhanced so as to reach audiences from Buglanaar up north and Samba down south across the LoC.

The Rawalpindi-based promoters of Pak terror groups are now exploring new technology to not only transport arms, explosives and ammunition through Chinese made drones from across the LoC but also the use of explosive-laden drones to carry out attacks on Indian targets. It is for this reason that India recently tested anti-drone technology on the LoC and international border. The country is also working on an indigenous laser based anti-drone system.