Taking the security agencies by surprise, foreign militants outnumber local militants in north Kashmir — comprising three districts of Baramulla, Bandipora and Kupwara — in a changing trend, according to official figures.
The sudden spike in numbers has forced the police to restrict the movement of mainstream leaders and elected grassroots representatives because of fears of an increase in attacks on them, top police sources said.
According to the latest data of the police, there are between 40 to 50 foreign militants active in north Kashmir compared to just 11 local militants.
It is for the first time in a decade that north Kashmir is witnessing heightened militant activities compared to south Kashmir, which remained the hub of militants after the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru in 2013.
“The foreign militants’ build-up was taking place for a long time and cannot be connected with the recent situation in Afghanistan. The changing trend was visible in the past two months,” a police officer said.
The presence of foreign militants in the ranks of the groups such as the Jaish-e-Muhammad, Al-Badr, Lashkar-e-Taiba and The Resistance Front (TRF) had dried up in the first quarter of 2021. In fact, the first foreign militant, Hamas alias Asrar alias Saria, who was active since March 2018, was killed on May 4 in north Kashmir’s Sopore, according to the police.
Against 32 foreign militants killed in 2020, only nine foreign militants have been killed this year so far, according to official figures.
A total of 102 militants, “mostly commanders”, were killed, 88 youth recruited, 30 arrested and 425 over ground workers held this year, according to the police data.
“The biggest success against foreign militants in Kashmir this year was the killing of Saifullah alias Adnan alias Lamboo, an IED expert who played a role in the 2019 Pulwama attack on July 31,” a police officer said.
Impacting security scenario
The rising numbers of militants in north Kashmir, which is already over 50 militants, has forced the security agencies to re-strategise their response.
A senior official said most mainstream leaders and elected grassroots representatives have been asked to lie low and provided with dos and don’ts when they plan to move around.
“I have been asked not to visit Sopore during the daytime, not to take the interior routes in Handwara and Rafiabad and ensure that police personnel remain on alert after the sundown,” a north Kashmir-based mainstream leader said.
In fact, the police investigation into the grenade attack on a sarpanch, Narinder Kour, on August 22 in Baramulla’s Shrakwara Kreeri area was traced to TRF’s non-local recruit Ali Bhai.
The police said the two suspected attackers held in the case were “in contact with LeT terrorist Hilal Sheikh and Usman, a foreign terrorist”.