By Amin Masoodi
Indian police on Monday denied claims made by the purported media arm of Islamic State (IS) that the terror outfit executed an attack which killed a policeman in Kashmir last week.
Police sub-inspector Imran Tak, 32, was killed and another officer wounded in an encounter with suspected militants in Srinagar on Friday, police said. One attacker was shot dead and another was captured alive.
Amaq news agency, the propaganda wing of IS, indicated on its website that the Middle East-based extremist group had carried out the strike in Indian Kashmir, also known on the Indian side as Jammu and Kashmir state.
It was not immediately clear if the statement, released in Arabic on Sunday, was referring to Friday’s shootout in Srinagar or a separate attack in Pakistan’s Quetta province two days earlier that also left a policeman dead, Indian Kashmir’s police chief, S.P. Vaid, told BenarNews.
“I can tell you with certainty, IS has no organizational capability or presence in Kashmir,” Vaid said, adding that he could only comment further once a probe into these claims was complete.
The report in Amaq News Agency said that IS cadres “killed a Pakistani police officer in a strike in Srinagar’s Zakura area.”
Mugees Ahmad Mir, the suspect who was gunned down, was a member of an unnamed faction of al-Qaeda trying to make inroads in Kashmir, police said. Mir allegedly worked under Zakir Musa (alias Zakir Rashid Bhat), who reportedly heads Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, a group believed to be behind a recent trend in Indian Kashmir of draping bodies of slain militants in IS flags.
Photographs of Mir’s dead body draped in an IS-like black flag emerged Monday.
“Irrespective of such claims (by militant groups), we are committed to eliminating violence from this region,” Vaid said.
Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir state – as the region is known on the Indian side – has grappled with a separatist insurgency that has killed more than 70,000 people since the late 1980s. The Himalayan territory is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, who have fought two full-blown wars over it.
Musa, 24, broke away from Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), the oldest and the largest separatist faction in Indian Kashmir, after he threatened to behead separatist leaders who described the fight against Indian rule as political instead of religious earlier this year.
Mir is Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind’s first slain fighter, Vaid said.
According to security analysts, fringe militants could be using the IS name to sensationalise what is otherwise routine violence in the militancy-ravaged Himalayan region.
“There is no convincing evidence of an IS presence in Kashmir. These claims are the handiwork of fringe groups trying to create terror in the minds of people and to put security agencies trying to restore normalcy into a tizzy,” Ajai Sahni, executive director of the New Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Management, told BenarNews.
The Indian government has consistently denied that IS has made any significant inroads in India even though at least 70 Indian Muslims have been arrested for showing leanings toward the group. About 50 Indians have left the country for the Middle East to fight alongside IS. Of them, at least 10 have died in battle.
Minister of Home Affairs Rajnath Singh said Indian Muslims would never allow terrorist groups such as IS to launch attacks in India.
“Any Indian Muslim who believes in Islam would not allow any opportunity to the Islamic State to have a base in the country,” Singh told reporters in New Delhi while answering a question about IS’s claim of the Srinagar attack.
Asrar Khan, a former retired police officer from Kashmir, agreed.
“We have no proof to suggest that IS has entered Kashmir. Such claims are made only to create terror and sensation. Having said that, the police needs thoroughly investigate these claims and dismiss it with authority so these fringe groups are made away they can’t take us for a ride,” Khan told BenarNews.