SRINAGAR (TIP): The killings, in Sopore, of a BSNL employee and a resident who allowed a mobile phone tower on his house premises defying terror threats, has brought the spotlight on Lashkar-e-Islam. In recent days, mysterious pamphlets issued by Lashkar-e-Islam have appeared in Sopore town warning people to dismantle mobile towers or face death. What is this new entity?

Intelligence agencies say Lashkar-e-Islam is a front for Hizbul Mujahideen and has been operational in Sopore and adjoining districts for some time. Agencies do not see it as a major threat as of now, as it is in line with the practice of Pakistan-backed terror groups in the Valley to raise such outfits.Since last May, when the NDA came to power at the Centre, there has been a surge in the number of terrorists neutralized in the Valley. One of the factors contributing to the success of the security and intelligence apparatus has been their capacity to track down terrorists through their roaming signals that contact antennae towers.The tracking does not require an active call and the Global System for Mobile Communications is based on the phone’s signal strength to nearby antenna masts. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the terror groups are targeting mobile towers: it’s to prevent being hunted down. It must, of course, affect their mobility and communication as well, but that’s a price they are willing to pay to address the bigger problem confronting them: of their locations being blown.

Sopore SP Abdul Qayoom said, “Although the police are investigating Lashkar-e-Islam and its motive, what we can say is it could be a shadow group of Lashkar-e-Taiba or even Hizbul Mujahideen.”

Qayoom added, “Cell phones have become a major source of information about the whereabouts of the militants, and this seems to be the reason why the outfit is trying to forcibly close down the operation of mobile phones in Sopore in particular and other parts of north Kashmir as well.” In this light, the response of separatists, with JKLF chief Yasin Malik calling for a probe by Pakistan-based United Jihad Council
(UJC) and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin, could be a red herring.

As also the response of Hurriyat hawk Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who in his usual rhetorical style, insinuated that the Sopore attacks were an Indian conspiracy against Kashmiri separatists.”Exactly who killed innocent people in Sopore is unclear, but the recent statement of defence minister Manohar Parrikar, that the government will ‘target terrorists with terrorists’ gives birth to many questions and raises doubts….may be it is a deliberate attempt to put the terrorist tag on the freedom struggle of Kashmiris,” Geelani said.

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Late Thursday evening, IG (Kashmir range) Syed Javaid Mujtaba Geelani held Hizbul Mujahideen responsible for the killings and threatening people linked to the telecom sector in North Kashmir.

“Nobody will be allowed to disrupt the telecommunication system in Sopore and shortly the service will be restored… We’re in touch with officials of cellular companies, landlords and shopkeepers and within days telecommunication system will be restored in the town,” he said.

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