The bloodied start to the New Year in Kashmir has also made an alarming re-introduction to a dangerous element to the region’s insurgency as Kashmiri militants have been identified as the fidayeen attackers.
Class X student Fardeen Ahmad Khanday and cab driver Manzoor Ahmad Baba were identified by the police as the two of the three gunmen who carried out the fidayeen attack on a CRPF camp at Lethpora, outside Srinagar city. The two militants were residents of Pulwama district.
Even as fidayeen attacks have continued with frequent pauses in the Kashmir valley, it is for the first time in the past seven years that Kashmiri militants were part of the attacking squad. “It is a dangerous trend,” said a senior police official in south Kashmir.
The last Kashmiri militant who carried out a fidayeen attack was Manzoor Ahmad Bhat, alias Usman, of Seer Jagir village of north Kashmir’s Sopore sub-district. Bhat, along with Pakistani militant Qari, had carried out the fidayeen attack on paramilitary installation housed inside Palladium cinema in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk area on January 6, 2010.
Since the Lal Chowk fidayeen attack, no such incident took place for three years till March 2013 when Jaish-e-Mohammad militants carried out an attack on CRPF personnel in Bemina on city outskirts. Subsequent fidayeen attacks were mostly carried out close to the Line of Control in north Kashmir. Foreign militants affiliated either to Jaish-e-Mohammad or Lashkar-e-Toiba were behind them.
Fardeen, one of the two local militants in the fidayeen squad that attacked the paramilitary camp at Lethpora on Sunday, was a resident of Hayuna-Nazneenpora village of south Kashmir’s Tral sub-district and a police head constable’s son. He had joined Jaish-e-Mohammad on September 15.
Before carrying out the attack, the teenager recorded a rare video statement that emerged on Sunday evening. By the time the video emerged on social media sites, the 16-year-old was dead.
It is for the first time that a militant in Kashmir has recorded his death wish and provided a window into a militant’s life and thinking. “When you will hear this message, I will be a guest in Allah’s gardens of paradise,” Fardeen said, sitting inside a room with large rifles and grenades around him.
In the 7.41 minute video, Fardeen talks of alleged injustices and praises the militants of Jaish-e-Mohammad who attacked Pathankot airbase, Nagrota and Tangdhar Army bases, Humhama BSF camp and Pulwama Police Lines. “They say that youth go into militant ranks because of unemployment, but it is no more than propaganda,” he said, listing and calling for “jihad” as an obligation.
The second local fidayeen, Manzoor, had joined in first week of November after his name surfaced in the attack on the Rajpora police station, a police official said. He was a resident of Pulwama’s Drobgam village.
The inclusion of Kashmiri militants in fidayeen attacks is uncommon, even though not unprecedented. Jaish-e-Mohammad, which was formed in January 2000 by militant cleric Maulana Masood Azhar, carried out its first attack in Kashmir in April 2000 when a teenage Srinagar resident, Aafaq Shah, drove an explosive-laden vehicle and blasted it outside the gate of Army’s 15 Corps headquarters.
“If there are more attacks like this in which Kashmiri militants take part, then it is a significant strategic shift by militants. But there is a need to wait and watch before reaching a conclusion,” a police official, who has expertise in counter-insurgency operations, said.
Sixteen year old Fardeen Ahmad Khanday and his teenager associate Manzoor Ahmad Baba have set a rare mark of carrying out fidayeen attack on the camp of forces.
Khanday was among three fidayeen militants associated with Jaish-e-Mohammad outfit who stormed the CRPF camp at Lethpora in Awantipora in volatile south Kashmir and killed four CRPF personnel. The teenage militant and his local associate Manzoor Baba were killed on Sunday while their foreign associate was killed on Monday in Lethpora encounter which lasted for nearly 37 hours.
Local militants turning fidayeen has come after many years and trend remains of militant outfits involving non-local militants for fidayeen attacks.
In Kashmir, local militants participating in fidayeen attacks on forces have been rare. Several fidayeen attacks that happened in Kashmir in 2017 involved all foreign militants, mostly associated with Jaish.
“Fidayeen attacks involving locals have happened in 2003 and 2005. Badamibagh cantonment fidayeen attack also involved a local. It is not new but not good to push young children as suicide attackers,” director general of Police, Shesh Paul Vaid told Kashmir Post.
Local militants turning into suicide attackers, the state police said, was a “challenge for whole Kashmir.” “It is not a challenge for us but for whole Kashmir. I’m solely not responsible to bring peace in Kashmir. But whole Kashmir has a responsibility to bring peace and show right track to youth,” Vaid said.
Local militants are seen by forces as less trained in comparison to those who infiltrate from across the border.
The Jaish has claimed responsibility for the Lethpora fidayeen attack and it’s two local recruit Khanday had joined militants three months back while Baba joined some two months back. Reports said Khanday was a son of a policeman.
In 2017 five fidayeen attacks, including one in Lethpora, were carried out by militants in different areas of Kashmir.
Timeline of Fidayeen attacks in 2017:
On April 27: At least three Army troops were killed in fidayeen attack on army’s Panzgam garrison near Line of Control in Kupwara district. Two militants were also killed in retaliatory action and five troopers were injured in the attack.
On June 05: Four foreign militants were killed after they tried to carry out fidayeen attack on CRPF camp in Bandipora.
On August 27: Eight cops and three JeM fidayeen were killed in an encounter after later mounted a suicide attack on DPL Pulwama.
On October 03: Three fidayeen militants of JeM, an Assistant Sub-Inspector of Border Security Force (BSF) were killed and three other BSF troopers were injured in an encounter after former carried out a pre-dawn attack on the BSF’s 182 Bn. camp, near Srinagar International Airport.
Fidayeen attacks from 1999 to 2013
24 June 2013: Eight soldiers were killed in an attack on a military convoy at Hyderpora, Srinagar.
31 March 2013: Attack on CRPF camp in Srinagar five killed.
5 October 2006: 10 fatalities – five JKP personnel, two CRPF soldiers, two militants and one civilian – in fidayeen attack at Budshah Chowk, in heart of Srinagar.
6 April 2005: A day before the bus from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad in Pakistan Administered Kashmir is to be flagged off, two suicide squad militants attack the Tourist Reception Centre.
22 July 2003: A three-member fidayeen (suicide squad) storms an army camp killing eight force personnel, including a Brigadier, and injuring 12 others, including four top Generals, a Brigadier and two Colonels at village Bangti on the Tanda road in Akhnoor.
14 May 2002: 36 persons are killed and 48 others injured in a fidayeen (suicide squad) attack on an army cantonment in Kaluchak, Jammu.
3 November 1999: Ten army personnel killed in a fidayeen attack on 15 Corps Headquarters at Srinagar’s Badami Bagh.
13 July 1999: DIG and four personnel are killed in an attack on Border Security Force sector headquarters in Bandipora.
The Jaish-e-Mohammad has set a dangerous and worrying trend of creating local fidayeen squads and releasing their pre-recorded videos akin to the Al-Qaeda to lure more youths to militancy
Out of the three fidayeen who stormed into the CRPF camp at Lethpora in Pulwama district on New Year’s eve, two were locals. This is a trend seldom seen in nearly three decade of the Kashmir militancy
One of the local fidayeen, 16-year-old Fardeen Khanday and son of a police man, had recorded a video before launching the attack
His eight-minute video, apparently released by the Jaish, explains the religious motivation and indoctrination. Khanday, a resident of Tral — the native town of slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani — had joined militancy over three months ago