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Al-Qaeda drops bombshell, says has network in J&K

Al-Qaeda drops bombshell, says has network in J&K

Author: Rashid Ahmad & Arun Joshi
Publication: Hindustan Times
Date: July 13, 2006
URL: http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1743266,001302390000.htm

This could be more trouble for India. On Thursday, a man claiming to be a spokesperson for Al-Qaeda called up a local news agency in Srinagar to announce the arrival of the terror group in Kashmir.

"We are here," the man, who identified himself as Abu al-Hadeed, told Current News Service. He said Abu Abdul Rehman Ansari was the chief of Al-Qaeda Jammu and Kashmir (the Indian arm of the terror network, as he claimed).

The man also had a congratulatory message from his chief for the Mumbai train bombers. He said the blasts were a "consequence of Indian oppression and suppression of minorities, particularly Muslims". "We appeal to Indian Muslims to wage their holy war of freedom and Islam".

"Al-Qaeda starts its operations in Kashmir from today," he said.

The government and security agencies have taken it seriously. DGP Gopal Sharma said investigations were on to verify the claims. Army spokesperson V.K. Batra said the call has been traced to a phone booth in Srinagar. He said if the claims were found true, "it would be a matter of concern". Sources said the phone booth owner was being interrogated.

For the past few years, particularly after the US went after it in Afghanistan and Pakistan post 9/11, there have been reports that Al-Qaeda men had infiltrated into the Valley. Also, links have been found between Al-Qaeda and terror groups like LeT in India. In July 2002, photographs of Osama and letters were found at militants' hideouts in Poonch district.

Another reason for concern is the mention of Kashmir in the statements of Osama bin Laden. In the past, he had clubbed the Kashmir and Palestine issues and had named India, Israel and the US as "oppressors".

The DGP, however, said the announcement could also be a tactic of terror groups in Kashmir to divert the security agencies. Al-Qaeda has no history of announcing its arrival, he said.

Still, nothing is being left to chance.

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