Militants say over 200 Afghans deployed in Kashmir

Reuters, June 3, 1999
By Ovais Subhani

KARACHI, June 3 (Reuters) - A Moslem militant outfit said on Thursday that more than 200 Afghans were in forward positions in northern Kashmir where guerrillas are holed up fighting Indian forces.

"Today, a group of more than 200 mujahideen (holy warriors) from Afghanistan have joined our forces in the Kargil-Batalik sectors,'' Abullah Muntazir, information secretary of the Islamist Lashkar-i-Tayyaba, told Reuters.

Muntazir, talking on telephone from Islamabad, said it was the first time such a large number of Afghan fighters had been sent to the Indian side of disputed Kashmir.

"The group hails from Afghanistan's Nooristan province and is led by Commander Abu Shoaib Nooristani,'' he said.

Muntazir said the Afghans were Lashkar's allies from the days of Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and have volunteered to help Kashmiri militants in their "struggle against India.''

Muntazir said the Afghans' expertise in conventional warfare would help militants, most of whom have been trained in hit-and-run guerrilla tactics.

"When these Nooristanis communicate in their language, the Indian army will have trouble translating. This gives us an edge in communications too,'' he said.

He said apart from the increase in the mujahideens' numerical strength, the addition of the Afghans would be a morale booster for the militants and could "further depress morale of the Indian soldiers.''

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