Washington, August 16 (Reuters and other sources): The United States on Wednesday said it has banned Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest of the anti-Indian Kashmiri militant groups fighting in the state divided between Pakistan and India.
The US Treasury Department, in a statement on its website, said it had listed the Pakistan-based group as a counter-designated group, freezing any assets it may hold in the United States and prohibiting Americans from dealings with it.
“These designations seek to deny HM (Hizbul Mujahideen) the resources it needs to carry out terrorist attacks,” the US State Department said in a separate statement.
In announcing the designation the State Department said that HM had claimed responsibility for the terror attack in 2014 in Kashmir in which l 7 persons were killed.
Last month, the United States also designated Syed Salahuddin, a militant commander for the group, as a terrorist – a label he denounced.
Such designations are aimed at denying individuals and entities access to the US financial system.
Pakistan has denied giving material help to Kashmiri separatists but has pledged to provide continued diplomatic and moral support.
India blames Pakistan for stoking the 28-year revolt in Muslim-majority Kashmir and has stepped up its pressure on Pakistan over the conflict.
Burhan Muzaffar Wani, also known as Burhan Wani, was a Kashmiri militant and the commander of Hizbul Mujahiddin, the Kashnir-based militant outfit. He was popular among the Kashmiris due to his activity on social media where he advocated against Indian rule in Kashmir.
Wani was killed in an encounter with the Indian security forces on 8 July 2016.
Widespread protests erupted in the Kashmir valley after his death, causing unrest in valley for nearly half a year in which more than 90 people died, while over 15,000 civilians and more than 4,000 security personnel were injured.
The violence which erupted after his death was described as the worst unrest in the region since the 2010 unrest in Kashmir with Kashmir being placed under 53 consecutive days of curfew imposed by Indian authorities.
The supreme leader of Hizbul Mukahiddin is the Pakistan-based Syed Salahuddin, whom the United Stated had designated as a “global terrorist”. He is the ‘supreme commander’ .
A statement released by the U.S. Department of State mentions Salahuddin “vowed to block any peaceful resolution to the Kashmir conflict, threatened to train more Kashmiri suicide bombers, and vowed to turn the Kashmir Valley into a graveyard for Indian forces.
Born Mohammed Yusuf Shah, Salahuddin changed his name after taking over as head of the militant outfit in the late eighties. The 71-year-old is also the head of United Jihad Council, an umbrella organisation of terror outfits such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed that operate out of Pakistan occupied Kashmir.
Hizb-ul-Mujahideen is one of the several homegrown militant groups that have for decades been fighting for an independent Kashmir or merger with Pakistan. Salahuddin openly claimed responsibility for the terror attack on Pathankot military base last year.
Prior to joining the Hizb, Salahuddin unsuccessfully contested in the 1987 Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections from the Amirakadal constituency.
Salahuddin has been vocal in his anti-India stand. He has also time and again mentioned Pakistan’s role in Kashmir unrest.
“The mujahideen struggle serves as a defence line for Pakistan,” Salahuddin had said.
A photograph of him with with 26/11 mastermind Hafiz Saeed surfaced days before Union Minister Rajnath Singh made a visit to Pakistan last year.
What does it mean to be U.S.’ ‘Designated Global Terrorist’?
The U.S. State Department maintains and periodically updates its list of individual terrorists and terror organisations that operate outside its soil. This is essentially done to ensure these individuals get out of the terrorism business. Terror outfits are termed ‘Foreign Terrorist Organizations’ and individuals acting as part of a terrorist organisation are designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists.
The Department’s Bureau of Counterterrorism identifies and evaluates possible individuals or organisations for designation. When a person or group is identified as “global terrorist” or a “terrorist organisation”, the assets in the United States or in control of any person/institution in the country are immediately blocked. The citizens and organisations of the U.S. are barred from making any financial transactions with these individuals or groups.
In UN, they are called ‘Foreign Terrorist Fighters’
Since 2014, the United Nations maintains a list of what they call Foreign Terrorist Fighters, “individuals who travel to a State other than their State of residence or nationality for the purpose of the perpetration, planning or preparation of, or participation in, terrorist acts or the providing or receiving of terrorist training, including in connection with armed conflict.”
Built on the guidelines of International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism, the financing for terror is criminalised and are binding on all member States of the United Nations.
(The featured picture at the top shows Syed Salahuddin, leader of Hizbul Mujahiddin with his lieutenants)