The militant Islamic State (IS) claimed for the first time that it has established a “province” in India, after a clash between militants and security forces in the occupied Kashmir region killed a militant with alleged ties to the group.
IS’s Amaq News Agency late on Friday announced the new province, that it called “Wilayah of Hind”, in a statement that also claimed IS inflicted casualties on Indian army soldiers in the town of Amshipora in the Shopian district of Kashmir.
The IS statement corresponds with an Indian police statement on Friday that a militant called Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi was killed in an encounter in Shopian.
IS’s statement establishing the new province appears to be designed to bolster its standing after the group was driven from its self-styled “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in April, where at one point it controlled thousands of miles of territory.
IS has stepped up hit-and-run raids and suicide attacks, including taking responsibility for the Easter Sunday bombing in Sri Lanka that killed at least 253 people.
“The establishment of a ‘province’ in a region where it has nothing resembling actual governance is absurd, but it should not be written off,” said Rita Katz, director of the SITE Intel Group that tracks terrorists. “The world may roll its eyes at these developments, but to militants in these vulnerable regions, these are significant gestures to help lay the groundwork in rebuilding the map of the IS ‘caliphate’.”
Freedom fighters have for decades fought an armed conflict against Indian occupation in Muslim-majority Kashmir.
They have not, like Islamic State, sought to establish an empire across the Muslim world. Nuclear powers India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir and came to the brink of a third earlier this year after a suicide attack killed at least 40 paramilitary police in IoK. A spokesman for India’s home ministry, which is responsible for security in Kashmir, did not respond to a request for comment.___Tribune.com