Indian security forces killed a notorious Jaish-e-Mohammed “chief operational commander” earlier this week in Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan continues to aid terrorist groups operating in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The commander, who went by the alias Abu “Khalid,” or Shahid Showkat, was highly sought by Indian security forces for his role in orchestrating attacks targeting Indian military positions and personnel.
Indian press reports detailed that Khalid exchanged small arms fire with security forces before he was trapped in a house and eventually killed by Jammu and Kashmir police near the Sapore district. Later reports suggested that a former love interest of Khalid’s provided tips to police about his planned attacks and potential whereabouts, which ultimately led to his killing.
Khalid’s “Fidayeen” operations
The tips provided by Khalid’s love interest also suggested that he was “commanding a group of 3-4 JeM [Jaish-e-Mohammed] fidayeen and supposedly on a mission to carry out a ‘spectacular’ suicide attack at a security installation in Kashmir,” The Times of India reported. “Fidayeen” is a term given to fighters who are willing to fight and sacrifice themselves in battle. The Pakistan-backed and Taliban-linked JeM has been responsible for these types of suicide attacks in the past.
Two of the more high profile suicide assaults linked to JeM over the past two years include the attack on Pathankot Air Force Base in Jan. 2016 and an operation against a military camp in the town of Uri, near the Line of Control that divides the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Khalid was not linked to these two operations.
According to Indian security officials, Khalid was particularly effective at orchestrating other deadly fidayeen strikes throughout the Jammu and Kashmir region. Over the past two years, Indian security forces linked Khalid to strikes on security installations in Srinagar, Pulwama (eight Indian military personnel were killed in that attack), and Baramulla, among others.
Indian officials also claimed that Khalid was active in using the internet and other means to recruit Muslims to wage jihad against the state.
Jaish-e-Mohammed: A Pakistani proxy in Kashmir
Pakistan has refused to recognize Jammu and Kashmir as an Indian state and has fomented a jihadist insurgency there since 1989. The Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), the powerful military intelligence wing, has along with the Pakistani military and government both created and supported numerous jihadist organizations in Jammu and Kashmir in an effort to separate the state from India. JeM is one of the more powerful of those groups.
JeM leader Masood Azhar is listed by the US as a specially designated global terrorist. His brother, Abdul Rauf Azhar, a senior JeM leader, is also named as a global terrorist. In Oct. 2001, the US added JeM as a Foreign Terrorist Organization for conducting terrorist attacks in South Asia.
Some of JEM’s top leaders have integrated with the global terror movement. Elements of Jaish-e-Mohammed have joined al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS, the newest regional branch of the global jihadist group which was formed by al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri in Sept. 2014.
JeM has participated in multiple terror attacks in India and has provided crucial aid to al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. Jaish-e-Mohammed was implicated along with the Lashkar-e-Taiba as being behind the Dec. 13, 2001, attack on the Indian Parliament building in New Delhi. In 2002, Sheikh Ahmed Saeed Omar, a close associate of JeM leader Masood Azhar, was behind the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Azhar is a longtime jihadi who trained at the same religious seminary as Afghanistan Taliban founder and former emir leader Mullah Omar. Azhar was captured by the Indian government in 1994 and imprisoned for terrorist activities. He was released from an Indian jail along with Omar Saeed Sheikh in exchange for hostages held in an Indian Airlines flight hijacking in December 1999 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. His brother, Mohammed Ibrahim Athar Alvi, took part in the hijacking.
Azhar established Jaish-e-Mohammed the next year as an offshoot of the Harkat-ul-Ansar (or Harakat-ul-Mujahideen), one of many terror groups created with the help of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency to fight the Indians in India-occupied Kashmir.
Azhar and Jaish-e-Mohammed have been openly recruiting Pakistanis to fight in Afghanistan. “In 2008, JEM recruitment posters in Pakistan contained a call from Azhar for volunteers to join the fight in Afghanistan against Western forces,” according to the US Treasury’s 2010 designation of the group’s emir.
Despite the mountain of evidence against Azhar and Jaish-e-Mohammed for their role in numerous terrorist attacks, Pakistan refuses to crack down on the group and its leader. Azhar has been placed under protective custody and house arrest multiple times when coming under external pressure, only to be released later to continue his role as JeM emir.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Phil Hegseth is a social and digital media specialist at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.