Sopore, June 15: Sopore in Kashmir continues to live in fear as a mysterious militant group continues to carry out selective attacks. Attacks on the telecom sector and now the killing of former militants have raised questions and a lesser known group called the Lashkar-e-Islam is being blamed for the same.
The separatists were quick to call the Lashkar-e-Islam a creation of the Indian Intelligence agencies (R&AW and IB). The police and the intelligence agencies however swear that these are attacks being carried out by the Hizbul Mujahideen.
In this context let us take a look at the dossier that has been prepared on the LeI which would give us a better understanding about the formation of the group, nature and area of operation.
The formation of the LeI
The LeI was formed in the Khyber Agency of Pakistan in the year 2004 under the leadership of Haji Namdar and Mufti Shakir. The decision to form this group was taken as its members wanted to dominate the area (Khyber) and propagate their own interpretation of Islam.
The group was involved in a series of clashes with the Barelvi group in Khyber Agency which was led by Pir Saifur Rehman. The Pakistan government had to step in and negotiate a truce as the violence had reached extreme levels.
While peace returned, the group decided that it would appoint Mangal Afridi as its leader. Afridi who was appointed as the leader in 2007 launched a campaign to implement the Sharia law in the Khyber Agency.
Rivalry with the Tehrik-e-Taliban
In the year 2008, clashes broke out between the LeI and the Tehrik-e-Taliban. Both groups were fighting for control over the Khyber Agency. The rivalry began as the LeI had managed to cut off the Peshawar-Torkham supply route which was used by groups in Afghanistan.
The rivalry became even more intense after the TTP killed Haji Namdar, a senior leader of the LeI. The attacks were believed to have been led by then TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud.
However the LeI hit back and this forced the TTP members to put out an Olive Branch. The LeI chief however stayed away from the TTP as they believed that the outfit was being played against them by the Pakistan government.
The fall of the LeI
The Pakistan army decided that it had enough of this group and launched a major offensive against the LeI. The offensive which began in late 2008 was a fierce one and the Pakistan army claimed that it had killed Mangal Afridi.
The claim was however refuted by the LeI and proof of him being alive and operating in the Tirah Valley of the Khyber Agency was put out.
However the Pakistan army continued with its offensive and managed to destroy the LeI and more importantly brought down the parallel government it was running at the Khyber Agency. This offensive by the Pakistan government ensured that most of the cadres were killed and the group was in complete disarray.
LeI is now part of TTP
The LeI today is a disbanded outfit. The whereabouts of its leader Mangal Afridi is not known. The cadres of the LeI have been leaderless since the Pakistan army's crackdown. For some time the cadres operated in separate factions, but none of them attained success in their operations.
By 2011, most cadres of the LeI had joined the TTP which had become a force to reckon with. Cadres of the LeI joined the TTP in small numbers at first. However by April 2015 the LeI was completely disbanded with all its members officially now being part of the TTP.
The TTP too benefited with the LeI members joining them. The LeI by no stretch of imagination was a small outfit. It had managed to run a parallel government and before it was disbanded it had 18,000 members.