THE GHOST GUN­MEN

A wave of puz­zling mur­ders sug­gests an in­ternecine bat­tle among the mil­i­tants

India Today - - STATES - By Asit Jolly

On Septem­ber 8, Ha­keem-ur-Rehman Sul­tani of the Hur­riyat’s Gee­lani fac­tion was killed in So­pore’s Bo­mai vil­lage. Uniden­ti­fied as­sailants stopped his car and shot him, ex­e­cu­tion-style. Re­cently out after 18 months in jail un­der J&K’s con­tentious Pub­lic Safety Act, Sul­tani had been in the van­guard of a 2009 ag­i­ta­tion that led to the re­moval of an army camp in Bo­mai and the 2016 protests after Burhan Wani’s killing.

Three days after Sul­tani was killed, Ab­dul Ahad Ganai, a PhD scholar from Ali­garh Mus­lim Uni­ver­sity, who the po­lice knew as an over­ground worker for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, was sim­i­larly shot dead in his car in Sri­na­gar’s Khan­yar lo­cal­ity. Bilquees, his wife and a lec­turer in eco­nom­ics, claims she had no idea of her hus­band’s links with mil­i­tants.

Po­lice of­fi­cials blame mil­i­tants for the killings though So­pore SP Javid Iqbal ‘of­fi­cially’ says Sul­tani’s killing is still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. The sep­a­ratist Hur­riyat lead­er­ship—S.A.S. Gee­lani, Mir­waiz Umar Fa­rooq and Yasin Ma­lik—how­ever dis­putes the claim. “The in­vis­i­ble hand of In­dian agen­cies can’t be ruled out,” they stated, warn­ing that the “re­vival of cus­to­dial and mys­te­ri­ous killings” could

re­sult in “group clashes and anar­chy”.

Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials say the killings re­flect the hard­en­ing tus­sle be­tween the Pak­istan-based United Ji­had Coun­cil (UJC) and Jammu-Kash­mir Is­lamic State (JKIS), a nascent group­ing of IS mil­i­tants. The lat­ter claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for Ganai’s killing, de­scrib­ing him as an “In­dian in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer”. Mean­while, the UJC-af­fil­i­ated Tehreek-ul-Mu­jahideen (TuM) de­nounced the killing and charged the killers of do­ing Delhi’s bid­ding. “These un­known gun­men are In­dian forces and their agents car­ry­ing out a mas­sacre of Kash­miris in a planned man­ner,” TuM chief Sheikh Jameel-ur-Rehman said.

Sig­nif­i­cantly, up un­til now, the Zakir Musa-led An­sar Gazwatul Hind (al­lied to Al Qaeda) was the only Val­ley-based mil­i­tant out­fit to pub­licly crit­i­cise the proPak­istan UJC and the sep­a­ratist lead­er­ship

THE HUR­RIYAT SAYS THIS RE­VIVAL OF “MYS­TERY KILLINGS” WILL LEAD TO “GROUP CLASHES, ANAR­CHY”

for their fail­ure to con­nect the Kash­miri strug­gle with the global ji­had.

For its part, the UJC dubs the JKIS and Musa’s out­fit as vig­i­lantes work­ing for the govern­ment. “A new ikhwan is be­ing cre­ated in the past few months in the name of IS and Al Qaeda us­ing the fa­cade of Zakir Musa… they are be­ing hailed by the In­dian me­dia and the im­pres­sion is given that these paid agents are the real he­roes of the Kash­mir strug­gle,” UJC spokesper­son Sadakat Hus­sain said after Musa was ousted from the HM last year.

Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials, how­ever, con­test this. “Clashes be­tween mil­i­tant out­fits are not new,” says a se­nior J&K po­lice of­fi­cer. “This (mil­i­tant ri­valry) was brew­ing for some time and is now in the open.” What­ever the case, the rift in the mil­i­tant ranks is ev­i­dent, and se­cu­rity of­fi­cials say this could well set the agenda for fu­ture counter-in­sur­gency in the Val­ley.

WHO KILLED HIM?The slain Ab­dul Ahad’s wife Bilquees shows a pic­ture of him on her phone

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