India Catches Suspected Suicide Bomber

Amin Masoodi
Srinagar
2016-02-26
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160226-IN-teen-arrested-620 Indian soldiers stand guard north of Kashmir’s Kupwara district after the army killed three suspected rebels during a six-hour gun battle, Nov. 25, 2015. Police said an 18-year-old Pakistani national who escaped from the scene was arrested Thursday and charged with planning a suicide attack at a military installation in Jammu and Kashmir.
AFP

A Pakistani teenager arrested in Indian-administered Kashmir was a suicide squad member of the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) militant group who planned to attack a military installation there, police say.

Mohammad Sadiq Gujjar, 18, was captured by the Indian army on Thursday at a village in Baramulla district.

“His handlers in Pakistan had asked him to create a base in Baramulla and wait for instructions to launch a suicide attack at a particular security forces’ installation,” Gareeb Das, deputy inspector of police, north Kashmir, told BenarNews on Friday.

Police said the suspect had an AK-47 assault rifle and six hand grenades.

In subsequent raids on Thursday, security forces also arrested five local Kashmiris suspected of aiding Gujjar.

Das said Gujjar’s arrest dealt a blow to JeM, a Pakistan-based militant group, which is “desperately trying to launch offensives on Indian soil, particularly in north Kashmir.”

A separatist insurgency has raged since the late 1980s in Jammu and Kashmir, a predominantly Muslim Indian state. Both India and Pakistan have territorial claims over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which has been at the center of tensions between the neighbors since the Indian Sub-Continent was partitioned in 1947.

Gujjar, a native of Sialkot in Pakistan, belonged to a four-member suicide squad that targeted an army camp in Kupwara district near the Line of Control (LoC), last November, Das said. The line is a boundary that demarcates the Indian and Pakistani sides of Kashmir.

Gujjar escaped unhurt in the Nov. 25 attack, which left a civilian dead and two Indian soldiers injured, Das said, adding that the other attackers were killed in retaliatory firing.

“He (Gujjar) was tasked with setting fire to the fuel depot in the army camp to cause maximum damage in the November offensive,” Das said.

After his comrades were killed, Gujjar managed to escape through the heavily forested area. He then moved to Kupwara and later to Baramulla, according to Das.

“He was in constant touch with his handlers to keep them updated about his movement,” Das said.

Afzal Guru suicide squad

Gujjar has a tattoo on his arm that says “Afzal Guru squad” in Urdu, an army official who requested anonymity, told BenarNews. The three attackers killed in the Kupwara encounter in November had the same tattoos, he added.

Guru, a Kashmiri, was executed by Indian authorities in 2013 for his role in an attack on the Indian parliament in 2001.

The daring assault, which left eight Indian security personnel dead, is believed to have been orchestrated in tandem by JeM and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), also a Pakistan-based militant outfit.

Following Guru’s hanging, JeM and LeT formed suicide squads in his name to advance their fight in Kashmir, the army official said.

“Mostly young boys, below 30 years of age, are part of this squad, whose main target is Indian military installations,” he said.

India blames JeM for an early January attack on an Indian air base in Pathankot, in Indian Punjab, which killed seven Indian security officials, even though the group has not claimed responsibility.

The youngest of seven siblings, Gujjar allegedly underwent three months of arms training in Pakistan that ended in August 2015, an investigating officer told BenarNews on condition of anonymity.

“He dropped out of school in March last year after a friend urged him to join JeM to fight against the oppression of Kashmiri Muslims by Indian armed forces,” he said, repeating what Gujjar told interrogators.

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