Kashmir Militant Extremists
Updated: July 12, 2006
Are there terrorists in Kashmir?
Yes. The disputed majority Muslim region has its own local terrorist groups, but most of the recent terrorism there has
been conducted by Islamist outsiders who seek to claim Kashmir for Pakistan. A spate of Islamist cross-border attacks into
Indian-held territory and the December 2001 storming of the Indian parliament in New Delhi have reinforced Kashmir’s
standing as the key bone of contention between India and Pakistan. Both states have nuclear weapons, making Kashmir one of
the world’s most dangerous flashpoints.
Do Islamist terrorists in Kashmir have ties to al-Qaeda?
Yes. Many terrorists active in Kashmir received training in the same madrasas, or Muslim seminaries, where Taliban
and al-Qaeda fighters studied, and some received military training at camps in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. Moreover, the Kashmiri
terrorists’ leadership has al-Qaeda connections. The leader of the Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen group, Farooq Kashmiri Khalil,
signed al-Qaeda’s 1998 declaration of holy war, which called on Muslims to attack all Americans and their allies. Maulana
Masood Azhar, who founded the Jaish-e-Muhammad organization, traveled to Afghanistan several times to meet Osama bin Laden.
Azhar's group is suspected of receiving funding from al-Qaeda, U.S. and Indian officials say.
Has the nature of Kashmiri terrorism changed since September 11?
Yes, experts say. Pakistan, which used to back Islamist militants in Kashmir, changed course after September 11. After
the December 2001 attack on India’s parliament, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf promised to crack down on terrorist
groups active in Kashmir. In response, members of these extremist groups have gone underground, taken other names, and formed
new, ad hoc configurations. Experts say some of these militants have branched out into attacks on Shiite and Christian minorities,
American facilities, and other Western targets in Pakistan.
After Delhi and Islamabad agreed to launch a landmark bus service in February 2005 across the ceasefire line dividing Kashmir,
militants vowed to target the service. In April of the same year, one bus survived a grenade attack.
Who controls Kashmir?
India now holds about two-thirds of the disputed territory, which it calls Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan controls about one-third,
which it calls Azad (meaning “free”) Kashmir. China also controls two small sections of northern Kashmir.
What makes Kashmir a flashpoint?
Kashmir been a constant source of tension since 1947, when the British partitioned their imperial holdings in South Asia
into two new states, India and Pakistan. For Pakistan, incorporating the majority Muslim province of Kashmir is a basic national
aspiration bound up in its identity as a Muslim state. Meanwhile, India sees the province as key to its identity as a secular,
multiethnic state. India and Pakistan fought three wars over the region in 1947, 1965, and 1971. At least 35,000 people have
died in political violence in Kashmir since 1990.
Which Islamist terrorist groups have been active in Kashmir?
The State Department lists three Islamist groups active in Kashmir as foreign terrorist organizations: Harakat ul-Mujahedeen,
Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Jaish-e-Muhammad. The first group has been listed for years, and the other two were added after the December
2001 Indian parliament attack. All three groups have attracted Pakistani members as well as Afghan and Arab veterans who fought
the 1980s Soviet occupation of nearby Afghanistan.
- Harakat ul-Mujahedeen (“Islamic Freedom Fighters’ Group”) was established in the mid-1980s.
Based first in Pakistan and then in Afghanistan, it has several thousand armed supporters in Pakistan and Kashmir. Harakat
members have participated in insurgent and terrorist operations in Burma, Tajikistan, and Bosnia.
- Jaish-e-Muhammad (“Army of Muhammad”) was established in 2000 by Maulana Masood Azhar, a
Pakistani cleric. Jaish, which attracted Harakat members, has several hundred armed supporters in Kashmir and Pakistan.
- Lashkar-e-Taiba (“Army of the Pure”), active since 1993, is the military wing of the well-funded
Pakistani Islamist organization Markaz-ad-Dawa-wal-Irshad, which recruited volunteers to fight alongside the Taliban. India
says that over the last several years, the group has split into two factions, al-Mansurin and al-Nasirin. There is wide speculation
that Lashkar-e-Taiba was responsible for the July 11, 2006 string of bombings on Mumbai's commuter railroad, though a spokesman
for the group denied any involvement.
Since Pakistan outlawed these groups, attacks in Kashmir and Pakistan have been carried out under other guises. One group
calling itself al-Qanoon or Lashkar-e-Omar is thought to be a coalition of members of Jaish-e-Muhammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and
other Pakistan-based Islamist groups, including the anti-Shiite Lashkar-e-Jhangvi organization. Another new militant group
reported to have emerged is the Save Kashmir Movement (SKM).