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JeM makes a comeback in Kashmir

From a single digit ‘rank and rifle’ in 2016, militant outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) has made a comeback in Kashmir with 60 active recruits across the Valley. Not only that, for the first time, the outfit has deployed sharpshooters with snipers, sending the security apparatus into a tizzy.

According to an internal police report accessed by The Hindu , the examination of cartridge cases found at three sites which have seen stand-off shoot-outs between the militants and the security forces in Pulwama and Srinagar revealed that they “were firearms fired from M4 Carbine”, a lighter variant sniper rifle with a telescoping stock.

Three security personnel were killed in these post-sunset shoot-outs at Tral on October 21 and October 25 and at Srinagar on October 25. All these attacks were carried out by the “special recruits” of the JeM, the police report said confirming the militant outfit’s earlier claims.

The first-ever sharpshooter behind the sniper attacks has been identified as JeM’s Qasim Bhai, who operates from Pulwama’s Tral and is the brain behind the two sniper attacks there. “Not much is known about Qasim. He is always accompanied by two foreign militants and he is said to be a master at handling the M4 rifle,” an officer said.

Based on human intelligence and technical inputs, four M4 snipers, three smuggled very recently into the Valley from north Kashmir, have been deployed in south Kashmir’s Pulwama and Shopian districts, the report suggests.

“It’s for the first time snipers have been introduced by the militants. Besides scaling up of weaponry, this seems part of the psychological warfare. These weapons have been introduced in the wake of successful operations against militants inside built-up areas. The weaponry is bound to have on impact on the security forces’ line of action,” said a top officer.

A sniper gun could find a target from a 100 to 200 meter distance and could be easily used to attack pickets guarding the camps that are perched atop the highlands in south Kashmir.

The report suggests that two snipers have been deployed in Khrew and Tral, both close to the capital Srinagar. “This is bound to impact the security protocol of protected personalties in J&K,” said the officer. “Jaish is known for spectacular attacks to announce their comeback. This time, it has introduced more lethal weapon, also used by the Afghan militants against NATO forces,” he added.

Against the backdrop of these developments, security around Army camps in isolated locations in south Kashmir has been beefed up.

Six recruits in 2016

The JeM’s comeback has come with swelled ranks too: for the first time since 2013, the police report suggests that the outfit has 50 to 60 active recruits. In fact, two militants were killed in a shooting incident in Baramulla recently.

Police data suggest that the JeM, founded by Pakistan-based Maulana Azhar Masood, had just six recruits in 2016, all operating from the jungles of north Kashmir.

In 2015, Adil Pathan, a resident of Pakistan, and his associate Abdul Rehman alias Chota Burmi, were the last active militants killed in Tral. “Since then, the outfit has been lying low and has been operating close to the Line of Control; it carried out a few fidayeen attacks in the name of the Afzal Guru squad, named after the hanged Parliament attack convict,” another counter-insurgency officer said.

The swelled ranks makes JeM the third largest group after Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen. Over 350 militants are active in J&K as of now, the police data suggest.

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Printable version | May 20, 2022 9:05:24 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/jem-makes-a-comeback-in-kashmir/article25364639.ece