SRINAGAR: Al-Qaida has formally announced its Kashmir cell, declaring the 23-year-old former Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Zakir Musa, as its chief.
The creation of the Kashmir cell named “Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind” was announced by Global Islamic Media Front, an al-Qaida-affiliated information network.
“After the heroic martyrdom of Burhan Wani, the jihad in Kashmir has entered a stage of awakening. Firmly holding the flag of jihad in their hands, Muslims in Kashmir have committed to retaliate with gun every aggression by tyrant Indian invaders,” reads a statement posted by the Al Qaida affiliate on creation of the Kashmir-specific cell.
It said "jihad with the aid of Allah was the only way to liberate Kashmir”.
“For this goal, a new movement of jihad has been founded by the companions of Wani under the leadership of Zakir Musa,” the statement said.
Zakir was the close associate of 21-year-old Burhan Wani, who was a top commander of pro-Pakistan militant group Hizbul Mujahideen and was killed in an encounter with security forces on July 8, 2016.
After Burhan’s killing, Zakir was named as new Kashmir chief of Hizb.
It needs to be seen how militant groups and separatist leaders in Kashmir will react to the development. The separatist leaders and militant groups like Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba had been saying that Kashmir had nothing to do with ISIS and Al-Qaida.
Zakir, who was an engineering student before joining militancy, had radical views and made such intentions clear after releasing a video message on March 15 this year in which he termed nationalism and democracy as “un-Islamic”.
“Our intent should not be that we are fighting for Kashmir's freedom. Instead, it should be that we are fighting for supremacy of Islam. We want to introduce Islamic Shariah here,” he had said.
It was for the first time that any Hizbul Mujahideen commander had talked beyond Kashmir.
In another video released in April, Musa’s group had attacked Pakistan and opposed waving of Pakistan flags during protests and during funeral prayers of the slain militants. It was for the first time that a militant group had attacked Pakistan.
On May 12 this year, Zakir claimed that Kashmir struggle was not a political but an “Islamic movement” and threatened to hang Hurriyat leaders at city centre Lal Chowk if they become thorn in way of implementation of Shariah.
He had labeled the Hurriyat leaders as “hypocrites” saying, “Why they are using mosques and other Islamic symbols and slogans if they believe that the struggle is political.”
Zakir had asserted that Kashmir struggle was for implementation of Shariah and supremacy of Islam.
A day after Zakir’s controversial statement, Hizb had disassociated from his statement saying it does not subscribe to his statement. On the same day, Zakir quit the Hizb saying he can’t “sacrifice his life for establishment of a secular state”.
After his quitting Hizb, Zakir, who is said to be operating in upper reaches of south Kashmir’s Tral area, has appeared in funeral of some militants killed in south Kashmir killed in encounters with security forces. During the funeral procession of the militants in south Kashmir and recently in Nowhatta area of downtown Srinagar, the youth were chanting pro-Islamic and pro-Zakir slogans.
There have been many instances when youth have waived ISIS and Al-Qaida flags and banners of Zakir Musa.
There are reports that when police officer was being lynched by a mob outside historic Jamia Masjid on June 22 evening, youth were shouting pro-Zakir slogans.