New Age Islam Special Correspondent
17 May 2019
Defeated in the Middle East, the Islamic State is now heading towards South Asia and India in particular more rigorously than ever before. The ISIS/Daesh has announced the creation of the so-called "Wilayat al-Hind" which actually implies the Daesh province in India. Though ISIS has declared it now after having lost control over significant parts of Iraq and Syria to the Syrian and Iraqi armies, the Daesh's planning and preparation for establishing new provinces or what it calls ‘Wilayat’ was foretold in the 5th edition of the Dabiq magazine, an earlier organ of the Jihadist group. It had indicated that the ISIS sypathisers and loyalists need to consolidate into a unified body and publicly declare their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as their Caliph. Dabiq had also detailed the process of establishing the Daesh provinces: “The group must nominate a Governor (Wāli), a religious leadership (Shura Council), and formulate a military strategy to consolidate territorial control and implement the Salafist version of the Shariah that ISIS follows in letter and spirit”.
Consequently, on 10th January 2015, Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) also known as “Wilayat Khorasan” was established by a former Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commander and Taliban faction commanders who swore an oath of allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, asa report by the United Nations describes. In January 2016, the US State Department designated the Wilayat Khorasan as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).
Now the ISIS has announced the creation of the so-called “Wilayat al-Hind" in Jammu & Kashmir reportedly after the killing of one of the group’s members—Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi—in a clash with security forces. It released a news pointer on May 10 as shown below, stating in Arabic that “the army of Caliphate clashed with the ‘infidel’ Indian forces in the Shopian district of Kashmir, killing and wounding a number of them, with a gratitude to Allah”:
This is the first instance when ISIS has clearlyspecified that one of its “provinces” is located in Jammu & Kashmir.The ISIS announced it through A'amaaq, one of their web organs. The Indian armed forces have denied the possibility, stating that it is merely propaganda, as only two militants of ISIS had remained in the region. One died in clashes with the military and the other would have joined a different organization.
But the above argument does not convince terrorism experts and security analysts. In fact, ISIS has long had its eye on the conflict zone of J&K with its sympathisers having been linked to small-scale attacks in the region.This declaration of new ISIS front in India in Jammu & Kashmir appears to be an attempt to bring life to the geographical ambitions of the ISIS under the “Caliphate” expansionist designs. In fact, the choice of ISIS of Kashmir as its "Wilayat" is very plausible, as several other jihadist outfits have earlier set up their operational bases in Jammu & Kashmir mostly backed and sponsored by the Pakistani state. The ISIS jihadists have long been looking for a new area to reorganize their groups after they have suffered in Iraq and Syria. But this could not be possible without the required ideological and logistical support. As already acknowledged in Dabiq, ISIS earned the support from jihadists operating in the region including East Turkestan (Xinjiang), Indonesia and Philippines. It has announced the establishment of its province in India (Wilayat al-Hind) only after consolidating its linkages with its loyalists in the subcontinent. No wonder then, only a few days after the announcement of Wilayat al-Hind, ISIS now claims it has established another “Wilayat” (province) in Pakistan. A statement which ISIS issued on May 15 claimed an attack in Pakistan’s southwestern Balochistan province which targeted the “apostate elements of the Taliban movement” in Quetta, according to this ISIS news poster:
hus, the ISIS provinces emerged dramatically both in Kashmir and Balochistan—the two regions rocked by separatist, Islamist and sectarian insurgencies for years. Earlier, both of the Daesh splinters fell under the "Khorasan Province" (ISKP). But the reason and the implication of why ISIS had to establish new provinces in both India and Pakistan is not difficult to pinpoint.It was unraveled in an interview with the current head of Wilayat Khorasan, Hafiz Saeed Khan, which was published in the 13th thirteenth issue of Dabiq magazine in early 2016.
The Wilayat Khorasan had criticized Pakistani-backed jihadist groups like the Taliban for supposedly adhering to a nationalist agenda, rather than fighting for the creation of a land governed according to the Islamic Sharia. It lambasted the Pakistani intelligence for “betraying the jihad in Kashmir”. “Because of this, many of the people of Kashmir and the soldiers of the factions left and made Hijrah to Wilayat Khurasan,” said Hafiz Saeed Khan. “Thus, there’s a big opportunity, with Allah’s permission, to establish the religion of Allah there and for the Islamic State to expand to it…..“Specific arrangements in those regions have been made and Muslims will soon hear good news about the caliphate’s expansion to those lands.”
Contrast the above Dabiq statements with al-Risalah interview of the ISJK top commander and the 34-year-old slain militant, Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi. In al-Risalah which is another ISIS mouthpiece, Ishfaq said that he was fascinated by the caliphate ideology since 2014 which helped him “distinguish between the truth and falsehood.” This interview which is attributed to the al-Tazkirah media centre, also shows ISJK is critical of Hurriyat Conference on the grounds that the Hurriyat recognises the United Nations which “doesn’t represent Islamic ideology”. Interestingly, the UN Security Council has added the ISIS Wilayat Khorasan to its list of sanctioned terrorist groups after it claimed operations in Jammu & Kashmir and Pakistan. One wonders why it took the UN more than three years to sanction the Wilayat Khorasan despite the group’s involvement in a string of high-profile bombings and raids against civilians and governments. When asked about the ultimate goal of the Wilayat al-Hind, Ishfaq said:
“The goal is only one, rule of Allah on the land of Allah, even if it requires the last remaining drop of blood.”
Now from Wilayat Khorasan in Afghanistan to the Sri Lankan NTJ that has brutally attacked Christian churches in Sri Lanka, via the Abu Sayyaf formation in the Philippines, the disputed region between India and Pakistan lends itself very well as a hub of ISIS recruits to coordinate operations and expansion of the caliphate. At a time when the armies of the two nations are continuously at the loggerheads, ISIS is gaining ground in J&K as yet another competitor in the ongoing war.
Not to mention that this is not currently considered a priority either by New Delhi or by Islamabad. Furthermore, the quadrant is close to western China, where the Uighurs are located. They are a Turkic ethnicity which lives mainly in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, but is present throughout the western area. For years, they have been separatists looking for autonomy from the country resorting sometimes to violent methods. So much so that many of their members have joined the ranks of the Islamic state and fought in the main operational theaters.
They also provided logistical support to ISIS cells operating in Asia on multiple occasions. After all, Kashmir is not even too far from Nangarhar in Afghanistan, where ISKP has its stronghold in Achin. A hub in the area would therefore bring great benefits to local groups, following the Taliban offensives. If the creation of Wilayat al-Hind is confirmed, there could be serious repercussions. Both in the context of the Indo-Pakistani conflict for the region and in relation to the threat of global terrorism, to India and beyond. Eliminating extremists, however, would be difficult and time-consuming, with no certainty of the result. The geographical morphology of the region, characterized by very high mountains, provides infinite shelters and natural hiding places to "disappear" from the sight.
According to Morocco World News, the Friday statement issued by ISIS coincided with the Indian news reports on the killing of an IS-affiliated militant, Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi, in a violent clash with Indian security forces in Shopian. Only on last Friday, in an encounter in Sopore the Indian security forces have shot down Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi, an ISIS-affiliate militant and a close aide of Zakir Moosa, the chief of Ansar Ghazwatul Hind in Jammu & Kashmir. Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi alias Abdulla bhai, who was a commander of the Islamic State Jammu and Kashmir (ISJK), was believed to be the only survivor among those who paid allegiance to the ISIS in Kashmir.
The ISIS-affiliated militants reportedly inflicted casualties on Indian army soldiers in Amshipora town in the Shopian District of J&K. It is only in the wake of these incidents that the ISIS propaganda website A’amaq announced the establishment of its new branch-Wilayat-ul-Hind. Furthermore, the IS released a statement indicating that a militant (Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi) was killed in an encounter with the Indian soldiers in Shopian District.
It is a matter of serious security concern that the Islamic State has announced the establishment of its new offshoot in Jammu & Kashmir even after the group has been driven out from its so-called “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria. Going by a report in Iraqi News, the ISIS had gained global prominence in early 2014 when it drove Iraqi government forces out of key cities in its Western Iraq offensive, followed by capturing Mosul and committing a massacre in Sinjar.
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