Kashmir on alert amid fears of militant incursion: Police Chief

March 25th, 2009 - 12:15 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban By Binoo Joshi
Jammu, March 25 (IANS) Areas in Jammu and Kashmir bordering Pakistan have been put on “highest alert” after reports that militants are getting together to penetrate into India ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, says the state’s police chief.

Director General of Police Kuldeep Khuda said after a brief “deceptive lull”, Pakistan has restarted pushing infiltrators into the state.

Security forces “have been asked to be on highest alert on the Line of Control (LoC) and the international border” after reports that militants are grouping to infiltrate to this side, Khuda told IANS in an interview.

He said Pakistan continued to support militancy and push terrorists into Kashmir though there had been a drop in infiltration and “terrorist activities after the Nov 26 Mumbai attacks”.

“I don’t find a change in the attitude of Pakistan as far as terrorism is concerned. Also there are indications that it (Pakistan) might gradually raise the pitch as per (its) convenience,” Khuda said.

“Pakistan resorted to cosmetic actions (after Mumbai attacks). But things reversed in no time,” the police chief added, referring to increased movement of militants in the Kashmir Valley, particularly in the border district of Kupwara.

At least 19 people, including 11 guerrillas and eight army troopers, were killed in a long- drawn gun fight between militants and security forces in the Shamswari forests of Kupwara early this week.

The police chief still feels confident that the situation in the state is “well under control” ahead of the five-phase parliamentary polls, which begin April 16 and end May 13.

“Though there are terrorists still operating in the state, the situation is well under control,” he said.

He said parliamentary polls threw challenges to the police like “atmosphere where people can come out freely to vote without any intimidation or threat of militants and separatists to boycott”.

The most important challenge, he said, was the security of candidates, public meetings, campaigners, political activists, polling booths and voters.

“Prime requirement is to create a security atmosphere where people feel and participate in the electoral process and cast their votes.”

According to the police chief, there are about 700 to 800 militants operating in Jammu and Kashmir with “40 percent of them (being) foreigners”.

“Pakistani terrorists are taking initiative and carrying out major strikes while locals are being used as helpers,” he said.

Khuda noted with concern the developments in Pakistan where the “establishment has virtually given up its role in Swat and Peshawar, thus giving boost to the morale of militants operating there. And if (militant) activities increase, it is a matter of concern not only for Pakistan but for us.”

About the reports that Taliban or Al Qaeda members may have sneaked into the state, the police chief said: “Taliban/Al Qaeda is no different from the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LET), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) or Al-Badr who are operating (in Jammu and Kashmir).

“The common link between most of these terror outfits is support of ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) and the (Pakistani) establishment. It does not matter whether Taliban or Lashkar is operating against us. So we are dealing with these outfits in any case.”

(Binoo Joshi can be contacted at binoo.j@ians.in)

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