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JIHADIST terror group Isis has claimed a “province” in India for the first time, indicating a possible shift in the group’s focus after being defeated in Iraq and Syria.
Police in India-administrated Kashmir dismissed the claims as “pure propaganda” as the death cult seeks to exploit regional tensions and political instability.
The announcement of the province, which Isis has called “Wilayah of Hind,” followed clashes between the jihadists and Indian soldiers in the town of Amshipora in India-administered Kashmir’s Shopian district on Friday.
Isis established the Islamic State in Jammu and Kashmir group in 2016 as it aimed to expand its operations into the disputed area.
It is not known how many militants it recruited, although intelligence suggests that some of the Sri Lanka bombers, who slaughtered more than 250 people in the Easter Sunday attacks, were trained in Kashmir.
Indian authorities are keen to downplay the influence of Isis in the region, claiming that the group’s “militancy is over in Kashmir,” they although admitted that the ideology remains.
They claimed that the death of local militant, Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi, who was killed in Friday’s clashes, was the end of the group’s chances of securing a foothold in India.
According to a senior police official: “Sofi was one of the last-known flag-bearers of the outfit.
“It has no relevance in Kashmir. It’s a propaganda-driven outfit taking pride in its failed global jihad project.”
But the SITE Intel Group which tracks armed fighters warned that the jihadists’ claims should be taken seriously.
Spokeswoman Rita Katz said: “The establishment of a ‘province’ in a region where it has nothing resembling actual governance is absurd, but it should not be written off.
“The world may roll its eyes at these developments, but to jihadists in these vulnerable regions, these are significant gestures to help lay the groundwork in rebuilding the map of the Isil ‘caliphate’.”
Indian premier Narendra Modi has stoked ethnic tensions during his election campaign by portraying Muslims as a threat to the country’s national security.
Playing on recent clashes with neighbouring Pakistan, Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalists have raised fears of an increased Muslim population, describing migrants from Bangladesh as “infiltrators.”
Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah provoked outrage when he said that if elected he would expel every “illegal immigrant” who is not a Buddhist, a Hindu or a Sikh.
Isis seeks to take advantage of this as it claims to defend Islam from attack.
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