The Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGUH) – an outfit with alleged link to the al-Qaeda in Kashmir said the slain militant was Muhammad Taufeeq from Hyderabad

by Abhishek Saha and Azaan Javaid

Police and intelligence agencies are probing an al-Qaeda linked outfit’s claim that a militant killed in an encounter in South Kashmir hailed from Hyderabad, officials said on Wednesday.

If confirmed, it will be only the second time since 2008 – when two suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba members were gunned down -- that militants from another Indian state have been killed in Kashmir.

The militant was among three gunned down by security forces on Monday in the Hakoora area of Anantnag district. While two of them were identified as Eisa Fazili and Syed Owais Shafi, the third remained unidentified.

Police have not said anything about the identity of the third militant but on Tuesday the Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGUH) – an outfit with alleged link to the al-Qaeda in Kashmir said the slain militant was Muhammad Taufeeq from Hyderabad. The Qaeda’s Kashmir unit is led by wanted militant leader Zakir Musa.

A police spokesperson said they are investigating the matter and trying to ascertain the identity of the slain militant. An Intelligence Bureau officer also confirmed they are looking into the claims made by the militant outfit.

According to a senior police official in Hyderabad, the state’s special branch was tipped off about the claim.

“We are making inquiries, but so far there has been no clue about his credentials,” the officer said on condition of anonymity.

According to a pamphlet by the AGUH, available online, Taufeeq had joined militancy in 2017 after coming to Kashmir from Hyderabad.

“Responding to the call of shariat or shahadat (martyrdom), Mohammad Taufeeq started his jihadi journey in 2017 after making hijrah (migration) from India’s Hyderabad city to the mountains of Kashmir and was among the first in the ranks of Ansar Ghazwatul Hind,” the pamphlet said.

The outfit added that Taufeeq’s “jihadi names were Sultan Zabul Al Hind and Abu Zarr Al Hindi”.

The body of the militant, which was not claimed by anyone, was buried in a graveyard for foreign militants in the Gantmulla area of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district on Tuesday night. A police officer handling the case said the militant’s DNA has been preserved to help ascertain the identification process.

Police have also refused to say anything on the Ansar Ghazwatul Hind though security officials say that militants from different outfits work in tandem in south Kashmir.

However, in an earlier statement, another militant outfit, the Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen (TeM), identified the third militant as Sabzar Ahmad Sofi.

In a statement to a local news agency, the TeM said Fazili was its district commander and added that Syed Owais Shafi belonged to the Hizbul Mujahideen.

Jammu and Kashmir police say there is no concrete evidence of IS presence in Kashmir but acknowledged that there could be individuals influenced by the outfit’s ideology.

In January, the home ministry informed Parliament that Zakir Musa’s group did not have support of more than 10 militants.

However, thousands of people turned up for Fazili’s funeral in Srinagar on Monday and his body was draped in a black-and-white Islamic flag commonly used by the IS. Counter-insurgency expert, Ajai Sahni, said that people from other parts of India joining militancy in Kashmir are “aberrations” and not frequent occurrences.

“The development is worth examining but it definitely is not a pattern. In three decades of Kashmir insurgency, number of occasions where youth from Indian cities joined Kashmir jihad is almost negligible,” Sahni said.