The Resistance Front (TRF), a new terror group that has taken responsibility for major attacks and gunfights in Jammu & Kashmir over the past few weeks, is controlled by three top handlers of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) in Pakistan, according to an intelligence report submitted to national security planners in New Delhi.
The idea behind TRF is to give terror in Kashmir an indigenous face, while also warding off international pressure on Pakistan, particularly from anti-terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that is keeping a close watch on Islamabad’s activities, the report added.
Security officials aware of the matter said that TRF was launched late last year after Parliament nullified Jammu & Kashmir’s special status on August 5, and divided the state into two centrally administered Union territories — Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir.
Attempts to put an India label on terror activities, one of the security officials cited above said, are reflected in the names Pakistani’s spy agency Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) has picked for new groups — such as TRF or the low-key JK Pir Panjal Peace Forum. These names don’t have a religious label, but suggest that they are India-bred, the official said on condition of anonymity.
The intelligence report prepared by Indian security officials on TRF said Lashkar leaders formed the core of the group. At this point, it said, efforts appeared to be concentrated on projecting TRF as a formidable force to attract local recruits.
“TRF is being controlled from Pakistan by top three Lashkar handlers: Sajad Jatt for South Kashmir, Khalid for Central Kashmir and Hanzala Adnan for North Kashmir,” said the report accessed by HT.
TRF’s social media managers in Pakistan claimed responsibility after five terrorists and an equal number of army soldiers were killed in the Keran sector early April.
The group also claimed responsibility for the gunfight in north Kashmir’s Handwara town that killed five security men, including the commanding officer of a Rashtriya Rifles battalion and a Major, over the weekend. One of the two terrorists killed in the operation was later identified as Lashkar commander Haider, a Pakistani national. The other person was a local terrorist, a resident of Handwara.
In Twitter posts on Wednesday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan accused India of trying to “find a pretext for a false flag operation” targeting his country even as he put emphasis on what he called indigenous “Kashmiri resistance” in the region. His tweets were seen by security experts as a response to reports of Pakistan’s attempt to send terrorists into India.
Last week, Khan brought in Lt Gen (retired) Asim Saleem Bajwa, a former director general of the Pakistani military’s inter-services public relations, as his new special assistant.
Indian intelligence officials said the LeT’s old guard was focusing on getting TRF new recruits from the Kashmir Valley.
In north Kashmir, they added, LeT terrorists such as Mehrajdduin Halwal are consolidating TRF’s base. Also, the group’s social media handles, which feature content traced back to locations in Pakistan, have been campaigning aggressively. The earliest version of its social media handles has been traced to internet protocol addresses in Pakistan.
For now, security officials expect TRF to carry out grenade attacks, mostly using its overground workers or fresh recruits rather than risking its trained hands. A grenade lobbed in Srinagar’s Hari Singh High Street in October last year was one of its first attacks, they said. The group, however, lost dozens of grenades when the police caught some of its overground workers ferrying arms and ammunition in March.