Al Umar Mujahideen
Established By: Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar
Also Known As: AuM
Country Of Origin: India
Leaders: Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar
Key Members: Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar, Zahoor Sheikh,
Operational Area: India, Pakistan
Number Of Members: 700
Involved In: Armed attacks
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Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar formed the Al Umar Mujahideen in December 1989, with a membership primarily drawn from recruits in downtown Srinagar, capital city of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The formation of Al Umar Mujahideen is traced to the differences that had emerged within the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). Zargar floated the AuM with the tacit endorsement of Srinagar-based cleric Maulvi Umar Farooq, after whom the outfit was named.
Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar alias Latram was one of the three terrorists released on December 31, 1999, by the Indian Government in exchange for the passengers of the hijacked aircraft IC 814 at Kandahar in Afghanistan. Zargar has since then been based in Pakistan. The Al Umar Mujahideen is a proscribed organisation under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002. The AuM aims to liberate the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir through an armed struggle and merge it with Pakistan.
Leadership, Command Structure and Cadre:
Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar is the ‘chief commander’ of Al Umar Mujahideen. With the help of Zahoor Sheikh, an Anantnag-based activist of the secessionist People’s League, Zargar crossed over to Pakistan through Trehgam and received training at a camp organised by the JKLF in August 1988. Subsequently, he went to Pakistan for a second round of training during May 1989 and returned through Uri.
Later, Zargar is reported to have executed several attacks on security force personnel and a series of murders of the Kashmiri Pandits (descendants of Brahman priests). Zargar, who is responsible for over 40 murders and was a key figure in the terrorist ascendancy in downtown Srinagar, was arrested on May 15, 1992.
Manzoor Ahmad Ganai is reportedly the ‘chief commander and organiser of training’. Latif-ul-Haq who is the ‘acting chief commander’ and Jamshed Khan, the ‘deputy chief commander’ are among the other important leaders of the outfit.
Shabir Ahmad Zargar, who was reportedly chief of the Al Umar Commando Force, a striking wing of the AuM and a close confidant of Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar, was arrested by the Border Security Force in Srinagar on October 2, 2002.
The AuM has a two-tier structure: The supreme command and field formations. The former consists of a ‘chief commander’, two ‘deputy chief commanders’, ‘military adviser’, ‘publicity chief’, and ‘intelligence chief’ and the latter consists of ‘district commanders’ and ‘regimental commanders’.
Apart from the Syed Salahuddin-led Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM), Al Umar Mujahideen is the only other terrorist group, which is led by a Kashmir Valley-based terrorist. The outfit reportedly has a strength of 700 cadres.
In the early phase of terrorist violence in J&K during the 1980s, the Pakistani external intelligence agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) perceived the AuM as an instrument through which the ascendancy of the JKLF, which had favoured independence for Kashmir could be challenged.
Apart from attacks on civilians and security forces, Zargar also indulged in extortion and used his ‘influence’ to intervene in local business and property disputes in Srinagar. At least seven abductions for ransom are reportedly attributed to him. In one instance, Zargar reportedly ordered a ban on the use of Maruti vehicles in Srinagar in order to help a Srinagar businessman who held the dealership for a rival motor company.
On the eve of Legislative Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir during September-October 2002, the ISI reportedly appointed Mushtaq Zargar, AuM chief, as the ‘chief coordinator’ to carry out attacks on candidates and political parties. It has been reportedly working in tandem with the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and guides the organisation in J&K.
Headquarters and Areas of Operation:
The AuM headquarters is located at the Narul locality in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). It is primarily active in the Srinagar, Baramulla, Kupwara and Pulwama districts of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir and at Muzaffarabad in Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
The outfit has, since inception, been funded and supported by the ISI. It also secures substantial assistance from the PoK government based in Muzaffarabad.
It is one of the members of the Muzaffarabad-based United Jehad Council (UJC), a 15-member conglomerate of Pakistan-based terrorist groups. The AuM had also forged links with the Khalistan Liberation Force (KLF) and supplied arms to them during the phase of terrorism in the Indian State of Punjab.
During year 2002, some of the AuM cadres reportedly joined the Lashkar-e-Omar, which is a conglomerate of Harkat-ul-Jehadi-e-Islami (HuJI), Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) cadres.