A new militant outfit, the fourth since the 2019 Balakot surgical strike and the subsequent dogfights between Indian and Pakistani air forces, has emerged in Kashmir valley and is headed by an Anantnag-based militant.
Kashmir Tigers made its first appearance through a video message in which a militant who identifies himself as Mufti Altaf, alias, Abu Zarr announced the group’s formation.
Altaf, the police sources said, is a resident of Nathipora village in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.
He was previously associated with Jaish-e-Mohammad, the group which had carried out a deadly bombing in February 2019 that led to a near-war situation between India and Pakistan and the air forces of the two countries had their first dogfights in more than five decades.
A counter-insurgency officer in south Kashmir told The Kashmir Walla that Altaf had “actually joined militancy in September 2020 and was affiliated with Jaish”. “Though he says he is with Kashmir Tigers, he had actually joined Jaish,” the officer said.
Kashmir Tigers is the latest addition to the attempts made by some militants to be indegenious. At least three militant groups have emerged in Kashmir during the last two years including The Resistance Front (TRF), People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF) and Lashkar-e-Mustafa (LeM).
Except for the Lashkar-e-Mustafa, the trend among the other three groups including Kashmir Tigers appears to be delinking themselves from religious nomenclature as well as overtly being dependent on Pakistan that were obvious in the past.
More than 200 militants are estimated to be active across Kashmir.
The emergence of the new militant groups has coincided with the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) – two of the premier strike forces of the insurgency – fading into shadows.
JeM and LeT have faced a backlash in Pakistan, where the leaderships of these two groups are based, as Islamabad faced the threat of being blacklisted by the Financial Action Task Force.
Altaf, as per the police records, is in thirties and was a teacher in a local Madrasa before joining ranks. “There is no old case on him but he was an OGW (over ground worker),” the police officer said.
The officer said there is no confirmation so far as to who else is part of the Kashmir Tigers. “As per our information, there is no one else (with him),” the officer said.
It remains unclear whether Altaf has splintered from JeM to form the new group or whether he has a tacit approval for the formation.