Amid COVID-19, new militant outfit surfaces in Kashmir

Amidst COVID-19 pandemic, new militant outfit surfaces in Kashmir

Representative image.

Amidst COVID-19 pandemic, a hitherto little known militant organisation – ‘The Resistance Front’ (TRF) – has surfaced on the militancy map of Kashmir.

Sources said the newly formed ‘TRF’ was formed by Pakistani spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) in early March and some militants from Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Hizb-ul-Mujahideen may have joined it.

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On April 5, in a fierce encounter along the Line of Control (LoC) in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, five Army personnel and an equal number of infiltrating militants were killed. The soldiers belonged to the elite 4 Para — the unit which undertook the 2016 cross-LoC ‘surgical strikes’ in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK).

Little known TRF, claimed responsibility for the attack. On April 18, another deadly attack was carried out by the militants in Sopore area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district killing three para-military CRPF personnel and injuring two. Again TRF claimed responsibility for the attack. The three militants killed in south Kashmir’s Kulgam on Monday reportedly belonged to the TRF.

Prior to that, on March 23, J&K police said it busted the outfit’s first-ever module and recovered a consignment of weapons.

Recently a purported statement of TRF surfaced on social media asking the Hizbul not to target J&K police personnel as “they are our own people and we cannot fight occupational forces without their support.”

The statement claimed that one of the senior-most Hizbul commanders in Kashmir Abass Sheikh has left Hizbul “because he also does not agree with killing Kashmir police and civilians.”

“Now Abass bhai is with us and we will fight with anyone who kills or hurts any Kashmiri. This is a final warning to Hizbul. Don’t force us to take the hard route. No warning now onwards, only action,” it added.

A senior police officer involved in counter-insurgency-operations told DH that TRF is a joint shadow outfit of the LeT the Hizbul and Jaish-e-Mohammad. “TRF was created by ISI to give their cross-border terrorism in Kashmir more ‘home-grown terror character because of the pressure from Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the global watchdog for terror-funding,” he said.

Quoting past examples, the officer said in early 2000s when the LeT would carry out attacks in Kashmir the responsibility would be taken by ‘Save Kashmir Movement’ “which was a shadow outfit.”

The past few weeks have not only witnessed an increase in infiltration attempts along LoC, but encounters between militants and security forces, civilian killing and abduction attempts of J&K policemen are also on the rise. The violence had comparatively subdued in Kashmir since last August but April saw a sudden spurt with nearly 50 persons including 29 militants and 13 security forces personnel killed so far.