The United States on Wednesday added Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), the oldest and largest rebel group fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir, to its list of global terrorist organizations – a move slammed by separatists in the disputed Himalayan region.
The U.S. State Department issued a notice to the media in which it declared HM as a Foreign Terrorist Organization and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist outfit.
“These designations seek to deny HM the resources it needs to carry out terrorist attacks. Among other consequences, all of HM’s property and interests in property subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with the group,” the department said.
Separatists operating in Kashmir, which is claimed in its entirety by India and Pakistan, denounced the move by the U.S, calling it an act “to defame a just freedom movement only to appease India.”
“The action is aimed at defaming the decades-old indigenous freedom movement aimed at liberating Kashmir from India’s oppressive rule,” senior separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told BenarNews.
“Calling Hizbul Mujahideen a terrorist organization is completely unjustified. America has done this to please India,” Mohammad Yasin Malik, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), told BenarNews.
“The international community is aware that thousands of people have sacrificed their lives for the freedom of Kashmir. The Kashmiris are committed to take this ongoing movement to its logical end. It does not matter how America and India project this struggle for freedom,” Malik said.
The move by the U.S. came nearly seven weeks after it named HM’s Pakistan-based chief, Mohammad Yusuf Shah (alias Syed Salahuddin), a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, and hours before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with President Donald Trump at the White House on June 26.
On July 27, global terrorist organization al-Qaeda announced that it was establishing a new wing in Indian-administered Kashmir, Ansar Ghazwat ul-Hind, which would be headed by a former HM leader, 24-year-old Zakir Rashid Bhat (also known as Zakir Musa).
Founded in 1989, HM is one of the most active armed militant groups operating in Indian-administered Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region where an outbreak of separatist insurgency has killed more than 70,000 people since the late 1980s.
“The group has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including the April 2014 explosives attack in Kashmir that injured 17 people,” the State Department said Wednesday.
In India, officials said the listing of HM as a terrorist organization was a “logical step” after HM’s chief was named a global terrorist.
The move will validate “cross-border terrorism as the reason behind the Kashmir issue,” the Press Trust of India quoted unnamed government sources as saying.
“New Delhi had actively pursued the case of Hizbul Mujahideen with the U.S. authorities for some time,” a source told PTI.
“The Home Ministry forwarded documents collected from security agencies and Kashmir police on the activities of Hizbul Mujahideen. These documents and proofs were used appropriately. [Indian] officials were also in touch with the U.S. authorities dealing with the matter,” the source said.