The Indian Express – Police informant’s killing 2 months ago may hold key to attack on Amarnath yatris

War within Lashkar-e-Taiba may have led its ‘commanders’ to hit Amarnath Yatra

Praveen Swami

New Delhi, 14 July 2017. Muhammad Yusuf Dar was buried on the third Friday of May, at his ancestral graveyard in the village of Gadoora, as a few dozen local residents stood by shouting slogans in support of Kashmir’s independence.

His body had been found lying in the fields the previous day, ripped apart by bullets, killed by the men he had risked his life to serve.

Now, as J&K Police and intelligence services investigate Monday’s Amarnath Yatra attack, in which seven pilgrims were killed, one question has emerged as key: what led jihad commanders to raise the stakes by executing the first strike on religious pilgrims since 2006?

The answer could lie in the story of that man buried in Gadoora, a committed jihadist, and at the same time, a police spy.

For years now, jihadists have described the Yatra as part of a Hindutva plot to displace Muslims from the Valley, although such messages were rarely acted on.

But an investigation by The Indian Express has revealed that a grim war within Lashkar-e-Taiba, which claimed Dar’s life, may have led its commanders to finally target the pilgrimage in a bid to establish their ideological legitimacy before their followers.

A committed political Islamist, Dar was known to police for providing shelter and assistance to jihadist groups operating in and around his village. His relationship with Pakistani national Abdul Rehman, the LeT commander code-named Abu Qasim who took charge of South Kashmir in 2010-2011, was said to be intimate.

In 2013, sources familiar with the case say, police found their way in, when Syed Abdul Shabir, Station House Officer of Chadoora, was killed by three gunmen at a hardware store in the local bazaar.

Police detained Dar, sources say, and threatened to prosecute him for murder, even though evidence of his involvement was not compelling. “He flatly refused to cooperate,” said an officer.

But the pressure finally worked: police in Pulwama cut a deal, sources say, through which Dar began to give them information on imminent LeT attacks, in return for protection against raids and harassment.

“There was, let us say, an arrangement, that Abu Qasim would be left alone as the price for cooperation. Either Qasim didn’t know, which isn’t likely, or he was willing to pay this price for his own safety,” said a senior officer involved in running Dar.

Following an attack at Srinagar’s Hyderpora bypass, which claimed the life of eight soldiers, what had been a local deal became a key intelligence operation. Information from Dar, intelligence and police sources say, helped terminate at least six fidayeen operations, with LeT operatives being eliminated before attacks could begin.

Police informant’s killing 2 months ago may hold key to attack on Amarnath yatris

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