Indian officials admit for first time Islamic State militants are present in Kashmir

Islamic State India KashmirIndian counterterrorism officials have alleged in court that four members of the Islamic State in Indian-administered Kashmir were guided by a handler from Pakistan. The court case involves four young men from Jammu and Kashmir who were arrested last November on terrorism charges. Court documents filed recently identify the four as members of the Islamic State. This development is significant because Indian officials have until recently dismissed as overstated claims that the Islamic State is present in Kashmir. The unfurling of Islamic State banners by anti-government rioters is a regular phenomenon in Indian Kashmir. But government officials dismiss those who wave such banners as impressionable youth who have no access to weaponry or logistical support from the Islamic State. Last November’s arrests, however, highlighted the fact that the Islamic State does in fact have an armed presence on the ground in India.

The four young men have been named as Haris Mushtaq Khan, Tahir Ahmad Khan, Asif Suhail Nadaf and Asif Majid. They were apprehended in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir’s largest city, following the arrest in September of 2018 of two other men who were allegedly affiliated with a group calling itself the Islamic State in Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK). The group has since renamed itself to Islamic State – Khorasan Province, while recently it proclaimed an overseas province in the region, which it calls “wilayah al-Hind” (province of Hind). Three of the four men have been charged with attacking a tourist visitor center in the area with hand grenades. In their official indictment against the four men, officers of India’s National Investigation Agency accuse them of being “confirmed terrorists of the Islamic State”, which amounts to the first confirmation in Indian government documents of the presence of Islamic State militants in India. The 28-page indictment states that the four men were among several locals who “acted as ground workers and […] provided logistics to the ISJK cadres”.

Additionally, two of the men, Haris and Tahir, are accused of having been in contact online with a man identified as Abu Huzefa, an Islamic State recruiter based in Afghanistan. According to the court documents Huzefa is a Pakistani national and “an active cadre of the Islamic State based in Afghanistan”. He was allegedly in regular contact with the two Indian men and provided them with Islamic State literature and other propaganda material. In their indictment the NIA officers also admit that the arrests of the four men point to “a larger conspiracy of these terrorist elements propagating pan-Islamic ideology of IS by recruiting and radicalizing Kashmiri youth towards jihad and targeting security forces”.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 20 June 2019 | Permalink

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Pakistan dismisses head of powerful spy agency after only eight months on the job

Lieutenant General Asim MunirIn a surprising move the Pakistani military has dismissed the head of the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency just eight months after appointing him to that position. The decision was announced on Sunday in a brief statement by the Inter-Services Public Relations, the public-relations wing of the Pakistan Armed Forces. The statement said that Lieutenant General Asim Munir had stepped down from his post as director of ISI and would take over as commander of the Gujranwala Corps in Punjab, Pakistan’s second-largest province. The statement did not explain the reasons for the reshuffle; the latter came as a surprise, as ISI directors typically serve for at least three years in that post. General Munir’s tenure began in October of this year.

General Munir has been replaced by Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, who until this latest appointment was head of the ISI’s counterintelligence directorate. Last October, when General Munir was promoted to ISI director, Hameed was promoted to the rank of three-star general. In April he was promoted again, this time from major general to lieutenant general, and was appointed Adjutant General at the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Armed Forces. His meteoric rise in the ISI has won him several devotees and he is seen as an influential intelligence planner in the ranks of the powerful spy agency. He rose to prominence outside of the ISI in late 2017, when he personally mediated to broker a deal between the government of then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and leaders of the so-called Ahmadiyya community. Followers of the Ahmadiyya movement, a messianic Muslim sect with a substantial following in the Punjab, had taken to the streets to complain of discrimination and harassment by the authorities. According to media reports at the time, Hameed threatened to use the Pakistani Army against the Ahmadiyya protesters if they did not scale down their public protests. Such reports cause some in Pakistan to view Hameed as a military hardliner and a firm believer in the view of the military as the guarantor of political normalcy in Pakistan.

Meanwhile in an unrelated development Indian officials said on Sunday that Islamabad had alerted Delhi of a possible attack by al-Qaeda in a region of Indian-administered Kashmir. Media reports said that Indian officials had been warned by the ISI that al-Qaeda forces planned to carry out “a major terror strike” in the Pulwama region of southern Kashmir. Security observers noted the move as a rare instance of intelligence cooperation between the two rival nuclear-armed nations. As a result, India said it had deployed nearly 500 additional companies of police officers in the southern Kashmir region.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 17 June 2019 | Permalink

Islamic State announces new overseas province in India for the first time

ISIS IndiaThe group calling itself the Islamic State has announced the establishment of a new overseas province in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state. The announcement was made over the weekend by Amaq, which serves as the news agency of the Islamic State. According to the news release, the Islamic State (known also as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has named the new province “wilayah al-Hind” (province of Hind), and said it is based in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, which is located in one of the three administrative divisions of the Indian administered state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Amaq report surfaced following an armed clash between a group of Islamist militants and Indian security forces in Amshipora, a village in the district of Shopian, which is in the foothills of the northern Himalayan Mountains. At least one Islamist militant was killed in the armed confrontation, which reportedly lasted two hours. Indian authorities identified the dead militant as Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi, and said he had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. The Amaq statement alleged that the militants in Amshipora had “inflicted casualties” on the security forces, but the claim was denied by the Indian government. The Reuters news agency spoke with Rita Katz, an Israeli analyst who directs the SITE Intelligence Group in the United States. She said that the announcement of a new Islamic State province “should not be written off”, but added that “the establishment of a province in a region where [the Islamic State] has nothing resembling actual governance is absurd”.

Writing in the Hong-Kong-based Asia Times, Prakash Katoch, a retired lieutenant general in the Indian Army’s Special Forces, said that the announcement of a wilayah in India was a first for the Islamic State. He warned that after announcing a province in Indian Kashmir, the Islamic State “may also attempt to increase its presence in other Indian states” with a significant Muslim presence, such as Kerala or West Bengal. Katoch noted that “a number of young men and women from Kerala” had been identified as having joined the Islamic State in 2016 and 2017. Several of them even traveled to Syria to fight for the Sunni Islamist group, he added.

Author: Ian Allen | Date: 14 May 2019 | Permalink

News you may have missed #646

Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai

Syed Fai

►►Analysis: Reorganizing Colombia’s disgraced spy agency. One former director of Colombia’s Administrative Department of Security, or DAS, has been convicted of conspiring to kill union activists. A former high-ranking manager is accused of collaborating with death squads to assassinate a television humorist. Dozens of agents have been implicated in what prosecutors call a systematic effort to illegally spy on the Supreme Court and opposition politicians, which some former DAS agents said was done with US equipment and funding. The new man in charge, however, Ricardo Giraldo, is an affable bankruptcy lawyer and former university professor, and his role is decidedly different from his predecessors’: namely to dismantle the agency.
►►Russian site snubs FSB request to block opposition networking. Russia’s top social networking site on Thursday defiantly rejected a request by the Federal Security Service to block opposition groups from using it to organize street protests accusing the authorities of rigging this week’s election. Over 45,000 people in Moscow alone have pledged on Facebook and the Russian site, VKontakte, to join fresh protests on Saturday against the 12-year rule of Vladimir Putin and the victory of his United Russia party in last Sunday’s parliament vote.
►►American citizen admits he took Pakistan spy money. Ghulam Nabi Fai, who is accused of working in Washington for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, to lobby for Kashmiri independence, has pleaded guilty to secretly receiving millions of dollars from Pakistan’s spy agency in violation of US federal laws.

Pakistan removed spy from US at CIA’s request

ISI HQ

ISI HQ

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A Pakistani intelligence officer was quietly removed from the United States last April, after the director of the CIA complained about him to his Pakistani counterpart. According to The New York Times, which aired the revelation last weekend, the then Director of the CIA, Leon Panetta, had “a tense conversation” with Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI), which led to the removal “within days” of the ISI officer. The officer in question is Mohammed Tasleem, whose diplomatic cover was that of attaché in the Pakistani Consulate in New York, but whose actual task was monitoring the political activities of the sizeable Pakistani diaspora in the United States. According to the FBI, which briefed the CIA about Tasleem earlier this year, his intelligence activities centered on pressuring politically active Pakistanis in the United States to refrain from speaking publicly on ‘controversial issues’. FBI counterintelligence reports claim that, on at least one occasion, Tasleem posed as an FBI agent, in order to extract intelligence from a member of the Pakistani community in the United States. The Times spoke to members of Pakistan’s ex-pat community who allege that the ISI systematically approaches Pakistanis speaking openly about ‘national issues’, such as the indigenous insurgency in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, the disputed Indian region of Kashmir, or Pakistan’s appalling human rights record. Read more of this post

Two US citizens charged with spying for Pakistan

Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai

Syed Fai

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
American counterintelligence officers have indicted two US citizens of Pakistani origin with trying to influence Congress and the White House on behalf of the government of Pakistan. According to court documents filed on Tuesday by the FBI in Virginia, Zaheer Ahmad (who escaped arrest and may be currently in Pakistan) and Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai acted as unregistered agents of a foreign government (legal terminology for espionage) while operating under the direction of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (ISI). Both men were leading members of the Kashmiri American Council, a lobby group that propagates Pakistan’s territorial claim to the northwester Indian region of Kashmir. Pakistan and India fought over Kashmir in 1947 and 1967, and have been engaged in constant low-intensity conflict over the territory ever since. The Kashmiri American Council is one of three Kashmir Councils in the West, the other two being in London, UK, and Brussels, Belgium. But the FBI court affidavit claims that the Kashmir Centers are ISI front-organizations, and that the activities of their employees are directed by the ISI. Specifically, the FBI alleges that Fai, who acted as the Council’s director in Washington, routinely coordinated his endeavors with his ISI handlers, usually communicating with them via email. The court documents mention a witness testimony that claims Fai has been an ISI operative for over two decades, and that in recent years he has been receiving between $500,000 and $700,000 per annum from Pakistani intelligence. Much of this money ended up in the pockets of influential American politicians, in the form of campaign donations. Read more of this post

Indian police claim arrest of German ‘spy’ in Punjab

Bhakra dam

Bhakra dam

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
A senior police official in the Indian district of Ropar has said that a German national arrested there last week was on a “spying mission” on behalf of the German government. Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, senior superintendent of police L.K. Yadav claimed that Thomas Kuehn, of Hamburg, Germany, had confessed to being a “German spy”. The 45-year-old Kuehn was reportedly arrested last Friday in a Hindu temple near the Bhakra dam in Punjab. Police officials grew suspicious when the German national failed to present them with “passport, visa or other required documents”. He initially claimed that he had lost his travel documentation, but later said his passport had been taken by his “Russian girlfriend” who was “in Nepal”. Shortly afterwards, Indian police officials reportedly discovered that Kuenh spent 18 months in a German prison in the late 1980s, for spying on behalf of Czechoslovakia. Read more of this post