EXCLUSIVE: The mysterious death of Islamic State Wilayah Hind's militant in Kashmir
Yesterday on June 26, a militant named Adil Ahmed Das, affiliated with Islamic State’s Hind Province (ISHP) was found dead, while another militant Arif Bhat was found in injured condition in an orchard area in Bijbehara town of South Kashmir’s district Anantnag.
As soon as the news of the shootout was reported by local Kashmiri and mainstream Indian media, there were many speculations from all sides. Some pro-IS Telegram channels blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) while others blamed Hizbul Mujahideen or Indian security forces. Some Indian journalists blamed al-Qaeda allied Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGH). While still some pro-militant Telegram channels blamed Indian security agencies for killing Adil Das and injuring Arif Bhat, claiming that Indian security agencies are remaining silent to create dispute among the militant groups in Kashmir. By Thursday, the statements started changing. Many pro-IS Telegram channels started pinning the blame exclusively on Hizbul Mujahideen while pro-Hizb channels were blaming Indian security agencies. For instance, a popular Kashmiri pro-IS channel Ahlu Tawheed Media blamed Hizbul Mujahideen for the killing of Adil Das. Another pro-AGH Telegram channel, Munasireen of AGH, also pinned the blame on Hizbul Mujahideen for the incident.
In a news aggregation thread on Twitter, I also reported what was being reported by local Kashmiri as well as mainstream Indian journalists, while keeping tabs on pro-militant Telegram channels.
My news aggregation Twitter thread on the incident:
On Thursday a statement attributed to the Hizbul Mujahideen operational chief in Kashmir Riyaz Naikoo was circulated on some pro-militant channels which blamed ‘Indian agencies’ for killing the ISHP militant Adil Das. However, the authenticity of the statement could not be verified. According to other reports on pro-Hizb Telegram channels on Thursday, a new audio tape from Riyaz Naikoo addressing the incident is expected to be released soon.
Since there was a lot of speculation surrounding the Wednesday’s event in local Kashmiri media as well as mainstream Indian media but failing to provide any definite answers, I started digging into OSINT and got hold of some information which may shed light on some of the facts surrounding the mysterious event. I scouted pro-IS, pro-Hizb and pro-LeT Telegram channels as well as private militant chat groups for information to ascertain what exactly happened on Wednesday in Anantnag. Some of these Telegram channels have since been deleted by Telegram. For instance, pro-IS Ahlu Tawheed Media channel was deleted late Wednesday but came up with a new channel on early Thursday.
The following exclusive information is part of my OSINT investigation into the shootout that took place in Bijbehara of Anantnag, Kashmir on Wednesday.
As per the information I found, Zubair Wani of Hizbul Mujahideen and Arif Bhat & Burhan Ahmed of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) tricked ISHP militant Adil Das, who used to be in the ranks of LeT before he joined ISHP, by inviting him to meet them, telling him that they wanted to defect from Hizb/LeT to ISHP and pledge their allegiance to IS emir Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Adil Das along with three other ISHP militants met them to proceed with their supposed defection.
All three of them, Zubair Wani (Hizb), Arif Bhat (LeT), Burhan Ahmed (LeT) pledged their allegiance to ISHP and Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. We can confirm this from the following photo session these militants carried out moments before the shootout.
After these militants pledged allegiance to ISHP and did a photo session, Adil Das asked two of his three fighters to leave. Now there were two ISHP militants left on the scene: Adil Das and Turaib. Others on the scene were Zubair Wani, Arif Bhat and Burhan Ahmed. The only person missing in the above photos is ISHP militant Turaib, whose photo I could not find but chatter in private pro-IS chat groups confirmed that he was present on the spot when the shootout took place. It is very likely that his photo was not posted by IS militants in the private pro-IS chat groups to secure his identity since he was able to escape the scene unharmed.
These five militants then offered prayers together. As soon as they were done with prayers, Zubair Wani reached for his AK-47 rifle and shot at Adil Das. Adil Das was hit and eventually succumbed to his injuries while the other ISHP militant Turaib jumped off the hill and managed to escape the scene but left his weapons and ammo behind. In the shooting, Arif Bhat was accidentally hit by a bullet fired by Zubair.
Zubair Wani and Burhan Ahmed seized the weapons that Adil Das and Turaib had brought with them, and also took their associate Arif Bhat’s rifle and ammo and left him in injured condition to save themselves from the approaching Indian security forces. Arif tried to escape the scene in injured condition on his own but was arrested by Indian forces a short distance away from the scene of the shootout.
On Wednesday there were also some reports, which I posted in my Twitter thread, about a disagreement between Adil Das and LeT militants about the weapons Adil Das took with him when he defected to ISHP. However, this particular report remains unverified by pro-IS and pro-Hizb sources. It is also important to mention here that LeT, a pro-Pakistan group, is ideologically against IS and according to some reports from local Afghan sources, LeT militants have been fighting alongside Afghan Taliban against Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISKP) in Kunar, Afghanistan in recent Taliban vs ISKP battles. Similarly, Hizbul Mujahideen is also a pro-Pakistan group that is ideologically against IS.
The above photos help establish that what happened on Wednesday in Anantnag was most likely a trap set up by LeT and Hizb militants to either recover weapons from Adil Das that were taken by him when he defected to ISHP or to gun him down for unknown reasons. This also looks like a well-planned trap since Hizb and LeT militants can be seen wearing IS insignia in the above photo session, which indicates they misled Adil Das and other ISHP militants to believe that they were about to defect to ISHP.
While pro-Pakistan groups have avoided an open confrontation with ISHP in Kashmir, it was just a matter of time before an incident like this happened since ISHP along with al-Qaeda allied Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGH) have been breaking away militants from the ranks of pro-Pakistan militant groups. And both ISHP and AGH have largely succeeded in doing so since many militants these days in pro-Pakistan militant groups in Kashmir are disillusioned after Pakistani government, bowing to international pressure, has stopped all kinds of support for these militant groups. And not only that, but Pakistani government has also placed restrictions on militant leaders based in Pakistan.
So far, the official media group of ISHP, the al-Burhan Media, has not released any statement, but a statement from the media group is expected soon. This article may be updated further in case of new information.
UPDATE - June 28, 2019:
On late Thursday, a video was shared by pro-IS Telegram channels which showed an ISHP militant identified by pro-ISHP channels as Abu Khateeb Al-Hindi, who can be seen and heard making a seven minute address. Moreover, an article was also released by the pro-IS Ahlu Tawheed Media group which served as a follow up on the video. Moreover, new photos from the photo session (see above) were also publicly shared by pro-ISHP Telegram channels.
In the video, militant Abu Khateeb Al-Hindi gives brief details about the incident surrounding the killing of ISHP militant Adil Das allegedly at the hands of militants from Hizbul Mujahideen and LeT.
Following is a brief transcript of the video:
“Oh, Muslim, Oh people of Kashmir, wake up now from your ignorance. I will try to keep this video short since we are running out of time. Whatever happened with our great mujahid Adil Das alias Abu-Hammas Al-Kashmiri was a plot hatched by both Pakistan sponsored Hizb-ul-mujahideen and LeT. This plot was hatched by Hizb Chief Riyaz Naikoo and LeT Chief Abu Talha in the name of weapons. Weapons is an excuse and it was never the reason for the killing of Adil and others killed previously. The real intent is to kill mujahideen like Abu-Hammas Al-Kashmiri (Adil Das) and others. Zubair Ahmed Wani (Hizb-ul-mujahideen) from Ara Dehruna Kokernag Anantnag, Arif Bhat (LeT) from Larkipora Fatehpora Anantnag and Burhan Ahmed (LeT) from Vessu Qazigund Anantnag contacted Adil Das, bitched about Hizb, LeT and told him that we have now realized that fighting under Hizb/LeT is no jihad. We want to meet you, give our allegiance to Islamic State/ Abu-Bakar-Al-Baghdadi and also talk to you about few things in detail. Then we met and these three guys have their allegiance to Islamic State, wore our clothes with Islamic State flag drawn on them, took photos with us, holding our weapons, gave assurance that going forward we are with you. We have already shared photos and we will be sharing more in due course. They succeeded in the plot but Hell is waiting for them in Hereafter. Adil Das was shot by Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Zubair Ahmed Wani alias Abu-Muawiyah (shows his photo on his phone). I want to add few more things, the mujahideen who have been killed in similar fashion or by providing intelligence to Indian forces by Pakistan sponsored Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and LeT. Militants killed by Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and LeT:
1. Qayoom Najar from Sopore (Kashmir’s longest surviving militant who was on his way from Pakistan to Kashmir to join IS, his Intel was passed on to Indians)
2. Mughees from Srinagar, switched from Hizb to IS, was killed by Hizb-ul-mujahideen by providing his intel to Indians.
3. Fayaz Ahmed from Palhalan Pattan Baramulla.
4. Suhaib Rumi from Baramulla, LeT operational chief who wanted to defect LeT and join IS, was killed by Indian forces after his Intel was shared by LeT/Hizb
5. When Burhan Wani (Hizb Chief) tried to do away from Pakistan and declare Islamic khilafah in Kashmir. He was eliminated by Hizb. They later said he was poisoned and killed in an encounter, but people know the truth
6/7/8: ISJK Emir Anwar, his associates Firdous and Sameer were ruthlessly beaten by Hizb-ul-mujahideen militants, were disarmed and looted. As soon as they tortured them, Hizb lost 13 fighters in a few hours. Their evil deeds come to haunt them.
9. ISHP OGW Arif Ahmed Sofi from Qaimoh Kulgam was killed by Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Altaf Kachroo. He accused him of being a spy and killed him. Altaf Kachroo was killed like a dog within few days after that.
They are not mujahideen, but army of a certain country. They are fighting for land for a certain country (Pakistan). Look what they did to our Adil Das. They shot him, then strangled him to death using the elastic of his trousers.
Moments before Adil Das was killed. Zubair Ahmed Wani (Hizb-ul-Mujahideen) asked Turab (ISHP) to lead prayers. He led prayers, as soon as they were done with prayers, Zubair Ahmed Wani shot at Adil Das, Turab jumped off the hill without his weapon. Zubair Ahmed Wani also accidentally shot his associate Arif Bhat (LeT), who was apprehended alive by Indian forces. It was an instant justice delivered.
Oh people of Kashmir, understand what is going on now. If you don’t, you will be among the losers forever.
The video was extensively shared by pro-IS Telegram channels like Ahlu Tawheed Media, Baqiyah State, United Kashmir, etc.
One of the Telegram channels associated with ISHP published the following quote attributed to one of its militants who survived in the Anantnag shootout.
It was never about weapons. Weapons is only an excuse. Adil Das who defected from LeT to ISHP did not own his weapon to LeT. He had purchased it from a LeT militant for 250K Indian rupees. The weapons they looted yesterday (including 2 AK rifles, 9 AK magazines, 7 thrower shells and magazine pouches).
Following are the new photos from the photo session that have now been made public by pro-ISHP Telegram channels.
It should be noted that the official media wing of Wilayah Hind, the al-Burhan Media group, has still not released any official statement regarding the incident, which is surprising.
Meanwhile, Telegram channels associated with Hizbul Mujahideen and LeT have been blaming the Indian security agencies for ‘hatching a conspiracy’ against them to ‘tarnish the jihad in Kashmir’. However, they have given no evidence to support those claims.
It is also worth noting that on Wednesday after the incident was reported in the media, even most pro-IS Telegram channels blamed Indian security agencies for the killing of Adil Das. But the narrative started changing around late Wednesday and early Thursday. The change in their claims can be assumed to be due to lack of information in the initial hours following the incident. According to chatter in pro-IS Telegram chat groups, the one surviving ISHP militant from Wednesday’s incident later got in touch with his colleagues and shared what had happened. This could also explain why there still hasn’t been an official statement by the al-Burhan Media group, which is most likely due to the fact that these ISHP militants were not in contact with their main spokesperson.
As I said in this article above, something like this happening was just a matter of time. So far Kashmir based rival militant groups have largely avoided open confrontation even after several minor incidents in the past where one militant group acted against the other, and that can be explained because all these militant groups have a much larger enemy to fight: the state of India. But the incident on Wednesday is something which I didn’t see coming this early on. The incident has the potential to send Kashmir spiraling into a full fledged civil war between rival militant groups, especially now that pro-ISHP channels are openly accusing Hizbul Mujahideen and LeT of killing Adil Das. If such a war erupts in Kashmir, it will primarily have four sides: Islamic State (ISHP) militants, Al-Qaeda allied Ansar Ghazwatul Hind militants, pro-Pakistan militant groups like Hizbul Mujahideen, and Indian security forces. This certainly isn’t in the interest of the general public in Kashmir and will cause a lot of bloodshed on all sides.
It is also important to note that Pakistan passing on intelligence to India on Kashmir based militant groups that are not sympathetic towards Pakistan is not something unimaginable. Just earlier this month there were reports in the media which said that Pakistan has passed on intelligence to U.S. and India about an imminent attack in Pulwama by Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGH) militants to avenge the killing of Zakir Musa. For Pakistan, Kashmir has always been about its national interests and understandably Pakistan or its allied groups in Kashmir will only tolerate ISHP and AGH to a certain extent.
What happens next in Kashmir is yet to be seen.
UPDATE - June 29:
Around midnight Friday, Islamic State Wilayah Hind’s official media wing, the al-Burhan Media group, finally released a three page statement on the Wednesday’s incident.
The official statement by ISHP confirms almost all the points I reported in my investigation in the above article. The statement said that LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen militants misled Abu Hamas (Adil Das) and Abu Turaib by telling them that they were going to defect to ISHP. Adil and Turaib showed up with other ISHP militants and took the bayah (pledge) from these LeT and Hizb militants and did a photo session. After that, the remaining ISHP militants were told by Adil to return as Adil and Turaib planned to stay with these new recruits for some time. After the rest of the ISHP militants left the area, Zubair Kachro (Hizb), who was the leader of the group of three new supposed recruits as per ISHP statement, asked Turaib to lead the prayers. When Turaib was leading the prayers, Hizb and LeT militants opened fire on him and Adil Das, in which Adil was killed while Turaib managed to escape. The statement further says that LeT and Hizb militants then looted the weapons that were brought by Adil Das and Turaib and left their own injured militant Arif Bhat, who as per the ISHP statement was injured by his own Hizb and LeT colleagues in cross-fire, at the site and fled the area to escape from the approaching Indian security forces.
The rest of the statement contains religious language where ISHP quotes Islamic Prophet. In the end, ISHP harshly criticizes and calls takfeer on Hizbul Mujahideen, LeT and Pakistan’s premier security agency for ‘betraying jihad in Kashmir’, and also subtly threatens retaliation for the killing of Adil Das ‘in action, not words’.
The full statement, which has been released in Urdu language, is being posted below.
Additionally, on Friday, a new video from Wednesday incident surfaced on social media which showed the injured LeT militant Arif Bhat being taken away by Indian security forces.
The official statement from al-Burhan Media group confirms almost all the points that I found in my OSINT investigation and also threatens, as I predicted, retaliation against the killing of Adil Das. The statement also confirms that Kashmir is now on the verge of a jihadi civil war between rival militant groups. Pro-ISHP channels have also been sending out messages full of takfeer against al-Qaeda allied Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGH), which shows that this is going to be a three way battle between rival militant groups, with ISHP on one side, AGH on the other, and pro-Pakistan militant groups like Hizbul Mujahideen, LeT on the third side, and with Indian security forces being the fourth party. It is unclear how Indian or Pakistani governments see these developments since there has been silence from the two governments on this, but according to my own understanding, Indian government will not mind these militant groups attacking each other as it makes the job of Indian security forces a lot easier. Indian security forces will likely wait it out, allowing these militant groups to attack each other, and it will only take action at the time of its own choosing, when the militant groups are much weaker. Until then, Indian security forces will pick off these militants one by one in its routine operations in the Kashmir valley, which have been taking place almost every day now.
The next few weeks in Kashmir will be critical for the regional analysts to watch.
UPDATE - July 1:
On late June 29, Saturday, United Jihad Council (UJC) chairman and Hizb-ul-mujahideēn (Hizb) chief, Syed Salahuddin, in a video statement called for a joint probe by all militant groups into the Bijbehara, Anantnag incident in which an ISHP militant was allegedly killed by Hizb/LeT militants
Video statement by Hizbul Mujahideēn chief Syed Salahuddin:
Video statements by Syed Salahuddin, who is also the chairman of United Jihad Council (union of all pro-Pakistan militant groups in Kashmir), are very rare. The last video statement from Hizb chief was on Pulwama attack of Feb 2019 that left more than 45 Indian soldiers dead and the Balakot strikes that followed. On June 29, three days after ISHP chief recruiter Adil Das was hacked to death allegedly by Hizbul Mujahideēn/LeT militants, Hizb chief Syed Sallahudin issued a video statement calling for a joint probe into the incident by all militant groups. Interestingly, Hizbul Mujahideēn chief, unlike his followers and supporters who defended the killing of ISHP militant by Hizb/LeT, spoke in favour of ISHP militant Adil Das, hailing him as a ‘martyr’. In the past he had come very hard against pro ISHP and AGH militants, even calling them ‘agents working for India’. So, his new video message indicates a clear change in his narrative and strategy. It appears that Syed Salahuddin has felt the inception of ISHP and AGH is real, by now they have made deep inroads in Kashmir and with growing support for them from Bandipora to Banihal, he appears to have decided not to take any chances with such a large follower base. In the 6-minute video message, Hizbul Mujahideēn chief interestingly does not deny involvement of his militants in the killing of Adil Das. He assures ‘strict action’ will be taken against those found guilty. He refers to ISHP as ‘mujahideēn’, saying that ‘we all fight for Allah’, and urges all mujahideēn active in Kashmir to maintain great trust and cooperation among themselves irrespective of differences.
More details emerge on the Anantnag incident:
OSINT reports from different quarters indicate that a meeting between Hizbul Mujahideēn, LeT and ISHP militants had taken place on June 25, a day before the incident when the trio Zubair Ahmed Wani from Hizb, Arif Bhat from LeT and Burhan Ahmed from LeT invited Adil Das to meet them by telling him that they wanted to defect from Hizb and LeT to ISHP. They then arranged for another meeting on June 26 (the day of the incident) where they were supposed to pledge allegiance to ISHP and its grand emir Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. OSINT and various ground reports further reveal that slain ISHP militant Adil Das had already returned the weapon to LeT when he switched from LeT to ISHP. He had reportedly got his own weapon for 250 thousand Indian rupees from another LeT militant. OSINT gathered from different quarters suggests that Adil Das was targeted in a well-planned plot by the three Hizb/LeT militants because of ‘his popularity and brisk recruitment of militants into ISHP’. Per unofficial pro-IS channels, Zubair Ahmed Wani and Burhan Ahmed took two AK-47 rifles, 6 full magazines, 7 rifle grenades, 1 hand grenade, 1 pouch, 1 mobile device and 8 thousand Indian rupees from Adil Das following his killing. This indicates that the plot to assassinate Adil Das was not for weapons, but a planned targeted killing to eliminate ISHP’s main recruiter to curb the growing number of ISHP cadre. It is very unlikely that such a decision can be taken by foot soldiers like Zubair Wani etc on their own. The orders and approvals may have likely come from central or local militant leadership. Having said that, it would be interesting to watch what the promised investigation into the incident by militant groups reveals.
Meanwhile, there has not been another statement from the official media wing of ISHP, the al-Burhan Media. However, unofficial pro-ISHP Telegram channels have been criticizing the video statement by Syed Salahuddin and have been calling for either ‘Qisas’ or blood money. ‘Qisas’ is the ruling in Islamic law which means the right of a murder victim's nearest relative or Wali (guardian) to, if the Islamic court approves, take the life of the killer, or take the blood money.
UPDATE - July 11:
On July 10, Hizbul Mujahideen commander in Kashmir, Riaz Naikoo, released a new audio tape addressing the Bijbehara incident. In the new audio tape, Naikoo calls slain ISHP militant Adil Das a “martyr”, which is a complete change from the past narrative in which he and his group called IS members in Kashmir “Indian agents”. Riyaz Naikoo says that he had talked to Hizbul militant (Zubair Wani) who was present at the site of the incident, who told Naikoo that Adil Das took his gun and put it on Zubair Wani’s chest, after which there was a brief scuffle in which Wani pushed the gun away while Adil Das kept on firing till one bullet him Adil himself. Riyaz Naikoo further says he rejected the claim of Wani and asked the reason why Adil had put a gun on him. According to Naikoo, Wani said that before it all started, Adil had called his superior and told him he is with three Hizbul members. Naikoo essentially blames Adil’s death on Adil’s alleged ‘bad intentions’.
Riaz Naikoo further says that after talking to Wani, he got in touch with ISHP militants, who told him that Hizbul members started it all. He goes on to say that he thinks that both Hizbul and ISHP members' intentions were not good. He goes on to say that ISHP member(s) intended to defect to Hizbul Mujahideen, but their plan was to seize the weapons and equipment of Hizbul militants. While he says he cannot trust either side's version, he also goes on to blame ISHP for encouraging defections in the Hizbul Mujahideen & eyeing its weapons. Riaz Naikoo condemned the incident and suggested that all parties must come with up with solutions to prevent this kind of conflict in future. He says since long he is suggesting that all groups must have a contract to stop the defections. It is very clear that Naikoo appears to be worried about the defections from pro-Pakistan militant groups in Kashmir to groups like ISHP and Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGH). Naikoo also explicitly criticized AGH for encouraging militants to defect along with their weapons, terming these defections a ‘fitna’ (strife). Naikoo sounded extremely troubled by the criticism of his and other pro-Pakistan groups by AGH and ISHP. Naikoo also said that there is a contract between Hizbul Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba that if any of their members want to defect, organisation he is defecting from and the organisation he is defecting to must investigate why he wants to switch, and the weapons should remain the property of the organisation which he defects from. Naikoo also brushes aside charges leveled by pro-ISHP and pro-AGH jihadists online that Hizbul Mujahideen helped Indian security forces in killing Burhan Wani, Abdul Qayoom Najjar and Mugees Mir. Naikoo sounded extremely worried about the growing influence of jihadists in Kashmir who are not allied with Pakistan.
Additionally, on same day Naikoo’s new tape was released, pro-ISHP al-Tazkirah Media group also announced a new forthcoming tape by an ISHP militant, Abu Turab, who was present at the site of the Bijbehara incident and has been mentioned in this article above.
Previously, on July 6, elder brother of Adil Das released a video message in which he claimed that around 20 days before Adil Das was killed, LeT operational chief Abu Talha sent armed militants to his family’s home who demanded 1.2 million Indian rupees and threatened to kill Adil Das if the money was not paid. Adil Das’s brother further said that he was the first person along with Indian forces to reach the spot and that he saw injured Arif Bhat, whom he asked if he was happy now after killing his brother. He said that Arif told him they were forced to do this by Zubair Wani of Hizbul Mujahideen. In the end, brother of slain Adil Das pleaded to overall militant leadership in Kashmir and Pakistan to do justice to his brother by applying the Islamic law of Qisas on Zubair Wani and those militants who killed his brother.
The new audio tape by Riaz Naikoo makes it very obvious that he and his superiors in Pakistan are very, very worried about the rise in the influence of groups like ISHP and AGH in Kashmir, that are not only not allied to Pakistan’s interests in Kashmir but also openly critical of Pakistani state and its intelligence apparatus. These two groups, one IS affiliate and the other al-Qaeda affiliate, have found increasing support in Kashmir valley among the locals as well as militant ranks of pro-Pakistan groups like LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen. Pro-Pakistan groups have went from calling ISHP and AGH militants in Kashmir “Indian agents” to offering reconciliation and urging cooperation. This is indeed a surprising change in narrative by pro-Pakistan groups and Pakistan based jihadi leaders like Syed Salahuddin. Additionally, the story concocted by Naikoo in his audio tape is not supported by already established facts, media reports and reports from local sources in Kashmir. The pictures shared in this article which shows Hizbul and LeT militants dressed up in pro-IS shirts or wearing pro-IS insignia prove beyond doubt that Naikoo either does not know the full facts, which he actually admits in his audio tape, or he is blatantly lying, since the photos prove that Hizbul and LeT militants most likely misled ISHP militants into believing that they were going to defect to ISHP. They also had some grudges regarding Adil Das who, according to some reports, had defected to ISHP with his weapons and equipment, which some pro-LeT and pro-Hizbul sources initially claimed belonged to his previous group, LeT.
It is yet to be seen what happens to the so called independent investigation that was previously called for by Syed Salahuddin, the chief of Hizbul Mujahideen, but it is very unlikely that such an independent investigation will take place, and if it somehow does, it is even more unlikely that it will be accepted by all parties involved. Meanwhile, pro-ISHP channels on Telegram continue to openly criticize Hizbul Mujahideen and its leaders, going so far as to label the group “Hizbul Satan”.
This situation has all the elements to escalate into a jihadi civil war, and we may be seeing the first phase of it.
UPDATE - July 13:
IS Wilayah Hind militant Abu Turab’s audio tape:
On July 11, ISHP linked al-Tazkirah Media group released a 12 minute audio tape containing the statement of ISHP militant Abu Turab who was allegedly present at the spot of the Bijbehara incident.
The video released by ISHP featuring Abu Turab, one of the two militants who was with Adil Das when Zubair Wani and two other militants from Hizbul Mujahideen and LeT, is more or less same as what we heard in the first audio tape released by another ISHP militant Abu Khateeb al-Hindi (mentioned in this article above).
In this latest ISHP audio tape, Abu Turab says that few days before he and his colleagues met Zubair and company, Zubair would send back to back messages to Adil Das, speak ill against Hizb/LeT, saying that they are done with Hizb/LeT and want to pledge allegiance to ISHP and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Zubair Wani knew Adil Das when he was in LeT. After a lot of pleading, Adil Das agreed to meet him so that they can pledge allegiance and join ISHP. He told him not to disclose it with Hizb yet, saying that they will raid their homes, threaten their families and physically harm them. He also said they have been doing this to Kashmiris since 90s. Turab says Wani told him that he and his Hizb/LeT colleagues have seen all of Hizb/ LeT closely and found them to be a fraud. He says that Zubair Wani also said he has lived in Pakistan and he saw Hizb Emir Salahuddin driving the same car as PM Modi, saying that there is no difference between the two. “They sell our blood in the name of jihad so we want to pledge our allegiance to IS”, Wani told Turab, according to latter. Wani said there is tension in the air and they want to join ISHP, ASAP. Turab says that the next day, Zubair Wani along with two others came to meet us. He says he and his ISHP colleagues were vigilant from previous day and had arranged food for them and activated their over ground workers (OGWs) to patrol all nearby villages so that they remain safe. Turab says he and his ISHP colleagues made good arrangements for them.
“We were patrolling all night for their safety. Nine of us met at the place. Zubair Wani spoke to Adil Das for 2 hours and swore to Allah that he is with us, two others too. Then they wore our clothes with IS banners drawn on them. They pledged allegiance to IS and Abu Bakar Al-Baghdadi. They spent lot of time with us and then we made groups. Adil Das said since these are new guys, they will stay with him, learn IS ops. Then we offered prayers, as soon as we were done, Zubair Wani took Adil Das’s rifle and shot him. Another militant Burhan took Abu Turab’s rifle and tried to shoot him. Since he had double safety locks enabled, Burhan couldn’t unlock it and shoot.”
Abu Turab further says, “Zubair Wani tried to shoot me but I jumped off the hill and managed to escape. The bullet hit Arif Hussain Bhat, another LeT militant. They had also strangled Adil Das after shooting him. They looted everything. I went to Khateeb bhai, told him everything and later we learnt that Adil Das was killed. This was never about weapons. They had planned to kill Adil Das. It is a clash of ideologies/ beliefs. If it were not, they would not have killed. They have done this to many of ISHP mujahideen previously.”
The details given in Abu Khateeb’s audio message have already been given above in this piece.
In his audio message, Abu Turab says Zubair Wani was texting someone before prayers. As per Turab, Wani told him it were his family, but it was most likely his handler and he may be seeking approval from him before carrying out the shooting. It could be Riyaz Naikoo or anyone affiliated with Hizbul Mujahideen based in Pakistan. Abu Turab also says they have pointed their swords and barrels at Hizb/LeT and they will avenge the killing of Adil Das. “We will destroy them”, he said in his message. The audio tape of Abu Turab indicates that ISHP will not let go of the killing of Adil Das easily and may be willing to go to war against Hizbul Mujahideen and LeT to avenge the his killing.
Brother of Adil Das, Musaib Das, gives interview to Indian media:
Adil Das’s brother in an interview to local journalists said that Adil Das was killed by Hizb/LeT militants. He says there was no reason to kill him. If there were any, they would have shared the video. He said that when they kill alleged police informers, they share their videos as soon as they are killed. “It has been two weeks but they have not given us any reason.” He says it was a planned killing and they don’t have a reason. He also says that his family wants justice. “We don’t care what others think. We want justice. It is my right as Adil Das’s brother to seek justice. I don’t work for anyone. I am not paid by any agency as many people allege. I am his brother and it is my duty to seek justice. It should never happen to anyone again.” Then he explains how Hizb/LeT sent their militants to threaten his family a month ago to demand money. “They threatened us that they will kill Adil Das if we don’t pay them money.”
Below is an excerpt from The Wire interview (which also quotes this investigative piece) with Musaib Das and his mother:
“We heard reports about his death in the evening. Then I was taken by the Army and stayed at their camp [Sirhama 16 RR] for the night. At 3:50 am, we left to get the body. When we approached the site, the army men took their positions. I walked for few metres and saw my brother’s body,” Musaib tells The Wire.
A few more metres away lay an injured Aarif Hussain, a Lashkar-e-Tayyaba militant, says Musaib. He broke down at the scene, he says, asking Aarif repeatedly why his brother had to be killed.
“He told me that it was Zubair Wani, a Hizbul Mujahideen militant from Kokernag who killed my brother.”
Aadil’s death has led to intense discussions in media circles. An investigation into the Telegram chatsof pro-militant channels has cast light on the sequence of events which led to his murder.
The death appears to be the beginning of an internecine dispute between militant groups. A section has been gravitating towards pan-Islamist ideologies and this has fractured political opinion in Kashmir. His family says Aadil had appeared serious about his studies at the Degree College of Bijbehara until he disappeared from home on July 19, 2018 to join the LeT. His family had no idea that he had joined ISHP.
According to the detailed open-source investigation, militants from Lashkar and Hizbul had led Aadil into believing that they were defecting to the ISHP too.
Hizbul’s Zubair and Lashkar’s Aarif and Burhan Ahmad lured Aadil to a secluded location at the Sirhama orchards. A fifth militant, Turaib, who was an associate of Aadil’s, was also present. Then, as the militants were praying, Zubair reached for his rifle and pumped a volley of bullets into Aadil, killing him. A bullet also accidentally hit his aide Aarif, who was hurt and incapacitated. While Turaib managed to escape, Zubair and Burhan grabbed Aadil’s weapons — the ones given to him by Lashkar — and fled.
The findings of the investigation matches the account given to The Wire by Musaib, who pins the blame squarely on Zubair. Aadil’s family also say that a few days before the Sirhama incident, two Lashkar militants had come to their house demanding money to the tune of Rs 12 lakh.
“They asked us to tell Aadil to either return the weapons or give them Rs 12 lakhs. This has all been done by Abu Talha, who currently heads Lashkar in the region,” Aadil’s mother told The Wire.
New audio tape of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo:
On July 13, a new audio tape of Riyaz Naikoo, the main Hizbul Mujahideen commander in Kashmir, surfaced online. Below is a brief summary of his audio tape:
In the new tape, Naikoo's tone has changed and he starts the tape with criticizing ISHP, accusing the group of causing ‘fitna’ (strife) and trying to start a fight among militants. Naikoo accuses ISHP of trying to create a situation like Iraq and Syria in Kashmir. He also says he won't allow a jihadi civil war in Kashmir. He says that his militants are not wearing 'anklets' and will respond to any act of war by ISHP. Naikoo says ISHP takes orders from Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi who is sitting far away from Kashmir. He says if Baghdadi was sincere with Kashmir, he wouldn't have ordered his militants in Kashmir to announce war against other jihadi groups. Naikoo says he has never seen Baghdadi and he isn't sure if he is even a Muslim or not. Says that those who pledge allegiance to Baghdadi do so either by force or they're killed after being declared 'murtad' (apostate). He says nobody knows the reality. “Our brothers (ISHP recruits) pledge allegiance on the phone but don’t know who are those they are pledging allegiance to.” He says that maybe some people won’t like him saying this but if IS leaders were sincere with Muslims, they wouldn’t order their militants in Kashmir to declare war against LeT and Hizbul Mujahideen. He says if IS leaders were sincere with mujahideen, they wouldn’t be fighting against Taliban in Afghanistan. He says if IS were sincere with Islam, they wouldn’t have fought against mujahideen in Iraq instead of the government.
“Wherever they (IS) fight, they fight against mujahideen. To this date, have they ever fought against any enemy of Islam? To this date, have they ever fought any war against America, Israel or India? These are the things that need to be understood and discussed. Only those whose hearts are free from ‘hasad’ (jealousy) will be able to understand these things. Those who have personal enmity against Hizbul Mujahideen won’t accept this.”
He says that if he is wrong, he demands a single piece of evidence to show that where has IS ever attacked an enemy of Islam. They (IS) show up in places where already mujahideen groups exist and the fight against the mujahideen instead of the ‘enemy’ and call them ‘murtad’, he says.
“Is killing Muslims Jihad? These people (IS) have smeared the name of Islam and mujahideen. I can’t understand what has happened to our colleagues/brothers, the things they have been doing instead of the things they should have done. Some time ago from today, a leader of Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGH) went viral on social media. They also added a voice message of (slain) Burhan Wani in their message. Firstly, I can’t understand for what purpose the voice message of Burhan Wani was kept saved to this date and for what purpose it has been exposed today. He sent that voice message to Musa Bhai (Zakir Musa), in which he (Wani) says that he won’t remain alive for long.”
“He (Wani) was displeased with his leaders/seniors at the time. Even I am sometimes displeased with my seniors and I tell them that I won’t live for very long. But that doesn’t mean that Hizbul Mujahideen is wrong. A father also sometimes disagrees with his children, but does that mean that they are not his children? A husband also sometimes displeased with his wife. But does that mean his wife is wrong? A human being feels angry towards his own, not strangers, and that is the sign of love and sincerity. I can’t understand what happened to your brain that you hold so much ‘hasad’ against Hizbul Mujahideen. You make so many excuses to smear Hizbul Mujahideen and created hatred for Hizbul Mujahideen in the people’s hearts. I wish you would devote those efforts against the ‘enemy’. In that voice message, he (Wani) also utters a word which was not necessary to bring in front of the public. When two friends talk to each other, they also make jokes, and also sometimes use such words which are not suitable for the public. He used that word for Musa Bhai considering him a friend, but you (AGH) brought it in front of the public.”
In following one or two minutes, Naikoo goes on to criticize AGH for making Burhan Wani’s voice message public, accusing AGH of ‘bad intentions’. He accuses AGH of trying to create hatred for Hizb and Pakistan in the hearts of Kashmiris.
The audio tape released by al-Qaeda allied AGH, which contained a message by new AGH emir Hameed Lelhari, which Naikoo mentions in his own audio tape, was released by AGH’s official al-Hurr Media on July 6.
Naikoo in his audio message further accuses AGH of opportunism, saying that the group keeps waiting for any mistake by Hizbul Mujahideen or Pakistan so they can expose Hizb/Pakistan in front of the public. He says AGH’s fight is for its personal goals, not for Allah.
“In that message, he (Hameed Lelhari) also says that he was offered help by Pakistani agencies, who offered him support in the form of weapons and logistics but wanted him not to attack India without orders from Pakistan. This worried me. No one has ever said this…….if you are in Kashmir and Pakistani agencies are in Pakistan, how did they find your contact? Is someone else contacting you (in the name of Pakistani agencies) and telling you that they are from Pakistan? On one hand you say that Pakistan has stopped supporting mujahideen, and then on the other hand you say that Pakistani agencies contacted you. My brother! please don’t mind, but beware that the enemy may be trying to use you. Is that equipment (weapons) meant to finish the pro-independence people of Kashmir? My brother! the enemy is very cunning. You should keep Operation Blue Star in your mind, that how it happened and what happened to them. They were contacted by the Indian agency R&AW, and they thought they were in contact with their well-wishers. They didn’t know who they were in contact with until their movement was finished. Apart from that, he (Lelhari) also says that Pakistani agencies are operating Kashmiri mujahideen and that Kashmiri mujahideen don’t attack Indian forces until they are ordered to do so by Pakistan. I don’t understand how you lie so much….I challenge you to show me a single mujahid in Hizbul Mujahideen who would affirm that someone said that to him that don’t attack Indian forces without permission. If you can prove that, I will leave Hizbul Mujahideen and will work under you. How much will you lie to prove yourself right? Will you spend the rest of your lives doing this? I am talking about Hizbul Mujahideen…we do not require permission from anyone to attack Indian forces, and nor we have to answer to anyone….we are answerable to our seniors in case there is a civilian killed by us by mistake…for two minutes I will agree with you that fine, we are not allowed to attack Indian forces without permission…your movement in Kashmir has existed for two years, you don’t work under anyone, you don’t have to seek permission from anyone, so when and where have you attacked Indian forces? Check the record how many Indian soldiers have been killed in Kashmir this year…have you killed any of those soldiers? Maybe you consider spreading hatred for mujahideen and Pakistan in the hearts of the people as jihad. That’s all you do. I am not pointing fingers at you, I am answering your questions. You force a person to open their mouth. For the last time, I am requesting all mujahideen in Kashmir, that mujahideen belonging to any group who are being killed, that loss is of Kashmir and Islam. Our enemy is one, our objective is one. We should shed the ‘hasad’ in our hearts of one another and we should become one. We should resolve our internal differences with cooperation. We should not be misled by others. Right now there are many such people who have nothing to do with religion or the movement..they intend to make us fight amongst us by portraying themselves as our well wishers.”
In the end, Naikoo says that his group leaves the issue of Bijbehara incident to Maulana Ab Rasheed Dawoodi, since he does not have any issue with Hizbul Mujahideen, as per Naikoo. Naikoo says his group will agree to whatever decision is taken by Maulana Dawoodi. Naikoo ends his audio message by saying that he wants everyone to know that from this day onward, he and his group will no longer address any other group and will not give explanations to anyone. He says if there is any issue with his group, he should come forward and the matter will be resolved face to face.
The latest audio tape of Naikoo is very interesting, in which there is another change of tone one can observe. Perhaps he and his group has realized that giving explanations to whatever accusations have been recently made by ISHP and AGH has backfired and created further suspicions among the Kashmiri people regarding his group. In his latest tape, he says there will be no more explanations. His audio tape can be divided into two parts: the first part in which he addresses ISHP and the second part in which he addresses AGH. Both groups have recently made some serious allegations against Hizbul Mujahideen in their own audio tapes; ISHP in its two audio tapes (one by Abu Khateeb al-Hindu and the other by Abu Turab) and AGH in its audio tape by its new emir Hameed Lelhari, which also contained a voice message of slain commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, Burhan Wani.
Interestingly, Naikoo does not deny the authenticity of the voice message of Burhan Wani that was released by AGH. But he also does not sound very pleased that Wani’s message was made public by AGH. Wani is pretty popular in Kashmir, in fact, some would say he has become more popular than Riyaz Naikoo himself, and his popularity only increased after his death. So the allegations by AGH that Wani’s killing was facilitated by Hizbul Mujahideen will create further distrust and suspicion against the latter among Kashmiri public.
It is also interesting that Naikoo, in the end of his new audio tape, says that his group will accept any decision taken by Maulana Dawoodi, who is an Islamic cleric based in India-controlled Jammu and Kashmir. It is yet to be seen whether ISHP agrees to this or not. Additionally, in his new tape, Naikoo once again avoided to address the photos that were made public by this article which show Hizb and LeT militants carrying out a photo session with Adil Das while wearing IS insignia/shirts.
Here I also want to point out two things: Firstly, the initial findings of this investigative piece have been confirmed by ISHP’s multiple audio and video tapes as well as by the family of Adil Das. Secondly, the photos made public in this article have never been denied by ISHP, Hizbul Mujahideen or LeT, by Indian security forces or Indian media, or by the family of Adil Das.
Meanwhile, pro-ISHP Telegram channels continue to bash Hizbul Mujahideen and LeT, threatening an upcoming jihadi civil war in the Kashmir valley unless blood money or Qisas is paid for the killing of Adil Das.
In the following days we will see what happens next in Kashmir, where the average Kashmiri civilian will be caught up in between rival militant groups if a jihadi civil war ignites in the valley.
This report will be updated when there are any new developments.
All audio and video tapes mentioned in this article can be made available to journalists on request.
Since its publication, this article has been quoted by Indian as well as international media.