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Schoolboy recruit who killed 28 in first operation

Schoolboy recruit who killed 28 in first operation

Author: Rahul Bedi
Publication: The Daily Telegraph
Date: September 12, 2002

With his prison crew-cut, lean frame and the barest hint of a moustache, Mohammad Abdullah looks even younger than the 17 years he claims. Yet he is a committed killer, one of a band of guerrillas willing to maim and butcher civilians for his political masters.

In July this year he entered Indian-administered Kashmir and, with a colleague, killed 28 people, including 10 women and eight children. Like many young jihadis he was not a Kashmiri but from Multan in Punjab, a border area of Pakistan that provides many of its militants.

Last week, he sat in Indian custody in Jammu facing a lifetime behind bars. Asked how he could kill innocent civilians, he replied: "I was not happy about it but my controllers in Pakistan said it was necessary to establish terror.

"I had my orders and had to follow them. It was not a question of liking the job but simply executing it."

Abdullah was recruited into the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure) while at school. Lashkar-e-Taiba is the military wing of Markaz Dawa-ul-Irshad, a militant centre for religious learning founded in 1987 by a professor at the University of Engineering and Technology in Lahore.

Supported by Pakistan's shadowy Inter-Services Intelligence, it began sending cadres to Kashmir in 1993.

Abdullah underwent basic and advanced courses in guerrilla warfare including weapons and explosives training with 50 other youths at Aska, near Muzaffarabad, capital of Pakistan-administered Azad Kashmir. He also attended Islamic indoctrination classes.

He said: "Our most senior instructor, in charge of all our training camps, was a Pakistani who had fought in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union. He also fought with the Taliban, but had come back to help with the jihad in Kashmir."

During his training, Abdullah was told to keep away from the non-Pakistanis on the course. He said: "One night, we came across a tented camp. The guards there spoke to each other in a language I did not understand but it sounded like Arabic."

The trainees were fired with a sense of injustice. They were told that thousands of Muslims had been butchered in Kashmir, their homes destroyed and their women raped.

"It made me very angry. On top of it all, it was very hot in Multan, and the thought of doing something adventurous in the mountains was very attractive," Abdullah said.

The young militant crossed the line of control that divides Kashmir between its rival claimants from Kotli in Pakistan with the help of mountain guides and Lashkar-e-Taiba "sleepers".

With Mohammad Adnan, another teenage Lashkar-e-Taiba militant, he was taken to Jammu and within hours of arriving on July 13 had emptied four AK-47 assault rifle magazines of 32 rounds each and lobbed five grenades into a crowded labourers' colony, as the workers sat around the radio listening to the cricket.

The two then fled into the jungle. Adnan was shot dead by police on Aug 2 and Abdullah arrested a day later.

(Rahul Bedi meets a young militant committed to ending the rule of India)

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