Pakistani terror groups Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) launched two attacks against security forces this week in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Both attacks targeted Indian military facilities and together resulted in the deaths of six Indian security personnel and one civilian. Eleven others were injured, including six women and children, according to reports. Both JeM and LeT are US designated terror groups that operate openly in Pakistan and support and maintain active insurgencies in the Jammu and Kashmir region.
In the first attack, which took place on Feb. 11, JeM terrorists snuck into the Sunjwan army camp in the city of Jammu during pre-dawn hours and began firing on Indian security forces. The jihadists were armed with assault rifles, grenades and a grenade launcher, and engaged Indian soldiers in a gunfight that lasted more than 30 hours. When the fighting ceased, three fighters were killed by Indian security forces. Five Indian soldiers and one civilian were killed during the Sunjwan camp attack, and 10 others were wounded. The casualty totals made the Feb. 11 assault the most deadly terror attack in India since a 2016 Uri military camp attack, also attributed to JeM, that killed 17 soldiers and wounded dozens.
The Indian government has labelled the Sunjwan attack a “ceasefire violation,” saying that they have evidence the attack was orchestrated by “handlers” within Pakistan, according to Reuters. They also warned that “Pakistan will pay for this misadventure.”
Just two days later, two LeT terrorists attempted to storm a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) headquarters in the city of Srinagar. Police opened fire on the two LeT fighters, who fled. The CRFP then clashed with the LeT members for 27 hours before cornering and killing them. One CRPF officer was killed and another was wounded during the fighting. LeT commander Mehmood Shah and spokesman Abdullah Ghaznavi claimed credit for the attack.
“The freedom fighters of Lashkar-e-Taiba continue to seize control of the stronghold in Karan Nagar (Srinagar),” Ghaznavi said in a statement released to local media, according to Kashmir Dispatch. Ghaznavi also stated that the Feb. 11 assault on the Sunjwan army camp was carried out by JeM.
Both attacks are consistent with the LeT and JeM’s historical trends of targeting Indian military facilities, camps and outposts.
Pakistan’s insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir
The cities of Jammu and Srinagar that were targeted in the attacks both lie on the Western edge of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, just 10 to 30 miles from the border with Pakistan. This proximity is beneficial for insurgent groups like Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba. The groups use Pakistan as a base of operations, launch attacks at a moments notice, and then flee back across the border to relative safety. These groups also leverage local networks inside Jammu and Kashmir to facilitate its operations.
Pakistan has supported the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir by permitting the establishment of terrorist groups that are committed to waging jihad in the Indian state and beyond. The Pakistani military created the United Jihad Council, an umbrella organization that coordinates activities of terror groups operating in Jammu and Kashmir. Both Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba are two key members. The United Jihad Council is led by Syed Salahuddin, the emir of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). Salahuddin is listed by the US as a global terrorist and HM as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.
In addition to establishing command and control of jihadist groups via the United Jihad Council, the Pakistani military has also set up a network of training facilities throughout Pakistan. In 2011, Salahuddin has admitted that the Pakistani military allows him to run “hundreds of training camps in the state where we recruit and train the mujahideen.”
Despite increasing pressure from the United Staes, Pakistan refuses to cut off its support for these terror organizations. This allows groups like Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba to be resilient not just in Jammu and Kashmir, but beyond. LeT, JeM, HM, and a number of other groups that were initially established to wage jihad in Jammu and Kashmir have embraced al Qaeda’s vision of international jihad, and are key allies of the global terror organization. They are all known to fight inside Afghanistan as well as in India.