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Indian Military sources said a number of terror launch pads along the Pakistani side of the LoC were destroyed by the Indian Army in the last few days. India has been retaliating strongly to the Pakistani “misadventure” by targeting terror launch pads and ammunition storage across the LoC. Recently, Keran sector was the scene of a deadly operation in which five elite army commandos laid down their lives while eliminating a group of infiltrating militants. Pertinent to mention that there have been frequent incidents of ceasefire violation by Pakistani since India announced its decision to withdraw special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the state into two union territories in August last year. Pakistan often resorts to ceasefire violations to push militants into the Indian side. Indian troops have also been retaliating to Pakistani actions under its policy of hot pursuit.

The Indian Army  on April 10  destroyed the ammunition dump of Park armed militants and the launch-pads along the line of control at Keran sector in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district. According to Wire Service—Kashmir News Observer (KNO), Indian defence spokesperson Colonel Rajesh Kalia said that launch-pads and ammunition dumps of militants was destroyed on the other side of LoC as Indian Army retaliated the unprovoked ceasefire violation of Pakistan. In a statement issued to KNO, he said that Pakistan in Keran sector resorted to unprovoked ceasefire violation which was retaliated effectively and strongly. He said that the precision targeting of gun areas, militant launch-pads and ammunition dump was carried out. Spokesperson also claimed that  there are reports of heavy damage to enemy (Pakistan) side.

The move of heavy retaliation from Indian Army comes days after five special forces soldiers got killed in a gunfight between the infiltrated militants in Keran sector on April 05, in which all the five militants were killed in a joint operation of security forces—(KNO).

Indian army soldiers patrol near the Line of Control (LoC) in Mendhar

sector of Poonch district, Sunday, April 12, 2020. PTI

A newly floated outfit, the Resistance Front (TRF), has come under the scanner of enforcement agencies for its suspected links with the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).  TRF came to prominence after, in a hand-to-hand combat that took place on April 05 in the Keran sector in north Kashmir’s Kupuwara, the elite corps of Indian Army lost five of its soldiers.  The team, which was also a part of the 2016 surgical strike team, killed five of the terrorists belonging to LeT, who had sneaked into India on the intervening night of April 01-02.  An official of the India’s Enforcement Directorate revealed that “We have reason to believe that the outfit is a front for the LeT. It has been launched to evade the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) scrutiny and avoid further sanctions. The FATF is to review Pakistan’s performance in acting against terror funding at its meeting in Beijing to be held from June 21 to 26.” The financial investigating agencies are trying to unearth the channel of funding to the new outfit, which is also called JK Fighters, to identify all those involved.

Three of those killed in the encounter were from Kupuwara  in Kashmir, identified as Sajad Ahmad, Aadil Hussain and Umar Nazir. It is suspected that they crossed over to the other side in 2018 and infiltrated into the Indian territory days before the encounter. On March 23, the Jammu and Kashmir police arrested four alleged members of the same outfit and seized weapons from them. They were identified by the police as Shafqat Ali, Ahtesham Farooq, Nisar Ahmad and Musaib Hasan. Preliminary investigations revealed that they were allegedly receiving instructions from a Pakistan-based handler through a mobile-based chat application. The accused had also been told to recruit locals.

The Resistance Front (TRF) is actually Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) with a new name.  Islamabad-based followers who are managing the social media platform of ‘Tahreek-e-Azadi’, an offshoot of the Lashkar, are also handling the social media account of TRF.  Tahreek-e-Azadi’s name had come to fore in Feb 2017 after LeT’s political wing, Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) decided to launch the outfit with a new name, as has been the modus operandi of the Pakistan-based terror groups. While TRF through its messaging on social media has been portraying itself as an indigenous Kashmir-based group, a cyber forensic analysis of the social media platform of TRF has proved beyond doubt that TRF is nothing but an offshoot of LeT.  The administrators of the facebook page of TRF had carried out an anti-India protest in August 2019 at D Chowk in Islamabad. Propaganda video of  TRF including the killed terrorist Sajjad Ahmad, a resident of Shophian, and multiple statements shared by “Commander Hamza”, the leader of TRF, originated from internet devices being used by Pakistan.  IP address of the group’s facebook page created on August 26, 2019 was traced to Islamabad.

However, recent encounters have revealed that regular infiltration attempts are being made,” the official said. While over 130 terrorists had entered Indian territory in 2019, 32 managed to cross over in January and February this year. The security forces killed 18 terrorists in January, seven in February and over half-a-dozen in March-April.

According to official figure from military sources, Pakistani troops resorted to 3,200 instances of ceasefire violations in Jammu and Kashmir in 2019, which was highest in the last 16 years. Of these, 1,565 ceasefire violations took place between August and December after India reorganized Jammu and Kashmir. In 2018, Jammu and Kashmir recorded 2,936 instances of ceasefire violations by Pakistan.

Pakistan, which is struggling with the coronavirus disease like the rest of the world, has doubled the number of terrorists waiting to infiltrate into Kashmir from its 14 operational launch pads, as per an estimate, powered by new intelligence inputs received by national security planners in Delhi. There are about 450 terrorists affiliated to different Pakistan backed groups at these launch pads. The figure has jumped from  about 230  just 2-3 weeks back. The 450 terrorists include 244 from the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), 129 from the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and 60 from the Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). Smaller groups such as the Al Badr make up for the rest. Most of these terrorists were minted recently from the many camps that are being run in Pakistan, mostly in its occupied territories.

Available intelligence inputs with security agencies indicate that out of 16 terror camps, 11 are functioning in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), two in Punjab, Pakistan and three in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) region. Seven of the 11 terror camps running out of PoK are hybrid camps where the trainees include recruits of different terrorist groups. “The existence of such mixed terror camps is evidence that there is one force that oversees them; the Pakistani deep state,” a counter-terror official in Delhi said.

Three other camps are dedicated to train LeT and one for training Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) group. In the KPK region, the HM runs two camps and the Jaish-JeM runs one. The LeT and JeM share one camp each in Punjab province of Pakistan. The terror reinforcements at the launch pads were designed to beef up the strength of terrorists in Kashmir depleted due to some recent setbacks. It is estimated that there are about 242 terrorists active in Kashmir valley, of which 138 are locals and 104 foreigners. Every 6 of 10 foreign terrorists are affiliated to the Lashkar-e-Taiba; the other four are linked to the Jaish.

Indian officials said Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) had gone to great lengths through the year to raise the presence of terrorists in Kashmir. This is the first summer after India scrapped Article 370 in August last year and there have been attempts to incite street protests, and violence, ever since. As things stand, Pakistan’s ISI has only operationalised 14 of the 86 launching pads or detachments along the Line of Control in Srinagar sector, Rajouri-Poonch sector and in Jammu sector across the international border. In the Srinagar sector, 10 out of 51 pads are used by terrorists belonging to LeT, JeM, HM, AlBadr and other sundry groups. In Rajouri-Poonch sector, three out of 13 pads across the LoC are occupied while one out of four pads are occupied by terrorists in Jammu sector largely belonging to LeT, JeM and HM terror groups.

If recent inputs are to be believed, encounter took place on April 11 in Kulgam district and a PIKA LMG alongwith IED material was recovered from terrorists. On April 17,  a team of Indian paramilitary force (CRPF) assisted by army killed 2 terrorists during a cordon and search operation in Dairoo area of Shopian. Four terrorists were killed on April 22 in South Kashmir’s Shopian including a top commander of Ansar Ghazwatul Hind. Again on April 25, three terrorists were killed in an encounter with the Indian security forces in Awantipura in Pulwama. As the report is being filed, another 3 militants have been killed in an ongoing encounter in the lower Munda area of Qazigund are in Kulgam on April 27. A search operation in the area is underway.

India went under a total shutdown from March 25 to April 14, further extended till May 03, to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Pakistan has reported nearly 12,700 Covid-19 cases and 268 deaths. Pakistan Army has no option but to continue with jihad in Kashmir else the public will start focusing on the poor domestic situation on the economic and Covid-19 response front and start questioning the leadership.