On the evening of February 14, Jaish-e-Mohammad released a pre-recorded 10-minute long video statement. It featured 19-year-old Adil Ahmed Dar, also known as Waqas Commando, from Gundibagh, in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district. He said that he was directly recruited to Jaish’s fidayeen squad. “Fidayeen” is an Arabic term that means “those who sacrifice themselves”. Dar declared, “By the time this video reaches you, I will be in Heaven.”
Dar also spoke of the plight of “Indian and Kashmiri Muslims” in the Indian state, asserting that “your oppression fuels our jihad”. He hailed the role of South Kashmir in the “tehreek” or movement and appealed to the people of North and Central Kashmir to join.
Hours before the video was released, Dar had driven a Scorpio packed with explosives into a convoy of more than 70 Central Reserve Police Force vehicles passing along the Srinagar-Jammu national highway. The attack took place near Lethpora, in the Awantipora area of Pulwama district.
“Police in Police District Awantipora today attended a gruesome terror crime spot at Ladhu Mode Lethpora at about 1515 hours following an explosion by terrorists targeting a security forces’ convoy traveling from Jammu to Srinagar,” a Jammu and Kashmir police statement said. “One vehicle which was part of the convoy carrying CRPF Personnel bore the brunt of the blast resulting in multiple casualties.”
According to Central Reserve Police Force figures released on Thursday evening, 37 of its men were killed. Unofficial figures put the toll at 42 so far. At least five personnel of the paramilitary force were also injured.
It is being called the deadliest attack by militants on security forces in Kashmir’s three-decade-long militancy. According to eyewitnesses, the explosion was so massive that it triggered an “earthquake-like” shock wave in the area. It left behind a smouldering mountain of wreckage and mangled vehicles, scattered pieces of human flesh and pools of blood.
After the blast, the police said, security forces cordoned off about 15 villages around the spot of the attack. On February 8, the Central Reserve Police Force received a note from the state police, saying there had been inputs of a possible IED blast. “Before occupying your place of deployment, please sanitise the area properly,” the note said.
‘A RESPONSIBLE KID’:
Hours after the blast, local residents including women and children, walked through the cold and rain to visit Dar’s house in Gundibagh. A Jaish-e-Mohammad flag had been strung up in the compound of the two-storeyed house.
Dar’s father, Ghulam Hassan Dar, wore a stoic face as he sat in his brother’s house next door, surrounded by a group of mourners. “He was a very responsible boy,” said Ghulam Hassan Dar, who travels from house to house selling fabric. “If he had Rs 10 in his pocket, he would save Rs 5. He would help out his mother, he took care of daily affairs at home.”
The second of three brothers, Dar had studied till Class 12 and then taken a course in religious studies. “He wanted to become a cleric and had already memorised eight chapters of the Quran,” said his father. “When he was free, he would take odd jobs to make a bit of money for himself. In 2017, he earned around Rs 50,000-Rs 60,000 by making wooden boxes at a nearby sawmill.”
Dar’s family had last seen him on the afternoon of March 19, 2018, his father said. He had been working as Mason’s assistant at a construction site. That afternoon, said Ghulam Hassan Dar, his son came home for lunch, took his cycle and left home. “Days later, a photo of Adil wielding a gun went viral on social media,” said his father. “We had no idea he would choose this path.”
According to police officials, Dar was recruited to Jaish’s fidayeen squad after the outfit’s previous fidayeen militant, Fardeen Ahmad Khanday, was killed in 2018. Khanday had been part of a squad that launched a suicide attack on a Central Reserve Police Force camp in Lethpora in January 2018, killing five men from the paramilitary force.
SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS:
As Dar’s family searched for answers to how their son became the face of the deadliest militant attack in Kashmir, they remembered an incident in 2016. “One day, he was returning from his school and men from the STF stopped him and made him rub his nose on the ground,” his father said. The Jammu and Kashmir police’s counterinsurgency unit was initially called the Special Task Force. Though its name has since been changed to Special Operations Group, in local parlance, it is still “STF”. The men forced the boy to make a circle around their jeep with his nose, his father said: “He kept mentioning this incident again and again.”
Dar’s uncle, Abdul Rashid Dar, pointed out that his nephew was very passionate about pro-freedom politics in Kashmir. “He participated actively in protests,” Abdul Rashid Dar said. “During the 2016 Burhan Wani uprising, he got hit by a bullet in the leg. It was in plaster for three months.” The killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016, had triggered mass protests that raged for months in the valley.
The article originally appeared on Scroll.in