Officials Cite Al Qaeda Presence in Kashmir; Say Radio Intercepts Indicate Men Hiding in Border areas.(WORLD)

Article excerpt

Byline: Shaikh Azizur Rahman, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

JAMMU, India - Indian military officials say they have intercepted communications that indicate al Qaeda and Taliban fighters have entered Indian-controlled Kashmir from across the border with Pakistan-based militants.

The Indian army's Northern Command in Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, said it intercepted a radio message believed to be part of an instruction to militant groups operating in Kashmir from their high command across the border.

The message, which was intercepted earlier this month and released to a group of reporters on Saturday, read: "We are sending five new colleagues towards your area. Let them join the old commandos. They belong to Rawalpindi [a city in Pakistan]. Send two al Qaeda colleagues who are with you towards our side along with the driver [guide]."

In Srinagar, the summer capital of the state, a senior army commander who requested anonymity also affirmed the presence of al Qaeda men in Kashmir valley.

"We cannot tell the exact number of those cadres here. But from the radio intercepts we are dead sure al Qaeda cadres are around, and they are hiding in the Indian border districts," he said.

"From surrendered terrorists we knew that last month 75 al Qaeda cadres were on transit at a Hizb-ul-Mujahideen camp in [Pakistan-occupied Kashmir] awaiting orders to infiltrate into India," he added.

An army official in the border town of Rajouri said another intercepted message indicated that an accident in a militant camp in Pakistan last month killed several young recruits being trained in explosive attacks. Two al Qaeda men were among the scores injured in the incident, the official said.

The spokesman at the Pakistani Embassy in Washington denied India's accusations of al Qaeda infiltration into Kashmir.

"These allegations are baseless and are consistent with the pattern of misinformation by India," Asad Hayauddin said.

He said some al Qaeda fighters escaping from Afghanistan have entered Pakistan and are believed to be moving south toward Karachi and other cities.

However, Pakistan has no evidence that the fighters have moved to Pakistan-controlled Kashmir, he added.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said during a visit to India in June that al Qaeda militants were operating in Kashmir, but he softened that comment a day later in Pakistan.

"The United States does not have evidence of al Qaeda in Kashmir," he said after meeting Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad.

"We do have a good deal of scraps of intelligence that come in from people who say they believe al Qaeda are in Kashmir, or are in various locations," he said. "It tends to be speculative, it is not actionable, it is not verifiable."

"The cooperation between the United States and Pakistan is so close ... that if there happened to be any actionable intelligence as to al Qaeda anywhere in the country, there isn't a doubt in my mind Pakistan would go find them and deal with them," he said. …