US designates Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin as global terrorist ahead of Modi-Trump meeting: Big Win For India: India welcomes move

 

Syed Mohammed Yusuf Shah was declared “specially designated global terrorist” by the State Department following Modi’s meetings with US secretary of state Rex Tillerson and defence secretary James Mattis on Monday in Washington. Salahuddin joins the likes Lashkar chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed and Dawood Ibrahim in the list.

Syed Salahuddin, who is also chairman of and United Jihad Council (UJC), and also the head of Kashmiri militant group Hizbul-Mujahideen, was on Monday declared as a specially designated global terrorist by US State Department.

The designation happened hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi met US President Donald Trump, signalling the new administration’s commitment to stamping out Pak-sponsored terror. The Summit meeting had not started at the time of going to press.

Syed Mohammed Yusuf Shah, also known as Syed Salahuddin, is the head of  Hizb-ul-Mujahideen a Kashmir-based militant group operating in Indian Kashmir, and head of an alliance of Kashmiri terrorist organisations, the  United Jihad Council,that supports the annexation of the Indian state of  Jammu and Kashmir to Pakistan and/or the Indian state of  Jammu and Kashmir being granted status as an independent nation.

Salahuddin regularly asserts that “the practical mechanism to solve the Kashmir dispute is by accepting the  Right to self-determination”. He is listed on the NIA Most Wanted list. He is currently living in Pakistan.

National Investigation Agency (NIA) is a central agency established by the Indian Government to combat terror in India.It acts as the Central Counter Terrorism Law Enforcement Agency. The agency is empowered to deal with terror related crimes across states without special permission from the states.

A native of Budgam district in central Kashmir, Syed Salahuddin, had shifted to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir around 1989 from where he played a key role in fueling militancy in Kashmir for 27 years; training and arming youth before sending them back to the Kashmir valley. He also heads the United Jihad Council, the umbrella body set up in the mid-1990s to oversee terror outfits active in Jammu and Kashmir.

“It does vindicate India’s longest-standing position that cross border terrorism behind disturbance created in Kashmir since last year. The outfits that Syed Salahuddin, leads, they have perpetuated, from the territory of Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, cross border terrorism against India including in Kashmir for a number of years,” foreign ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay said welcoming the notification.

It also underlines that both India and US face threat of terrorism and “are working together to counter this threat, not in particular sector but globally also as terrorism knows no boundaries. Terrorism is a global menace”, Mr Baglay added.

New Delhi sees the specific mention of turning Kashmir “into a graveyard for Indian forces” as an unequivocal statement in India’s support and a validation of India’s moral authority on the Kashmir issue.

The US move is seen to signal that the Trump administration will take a tougher stance on Pakistan harbouring terror groups.

“Department of State has designated Mohammad Yusuf Shah, also known as (AKA) Syed Salahuddin as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) under Section 1(b) of Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, which imposes sanctions on foreign persons who have committed, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism that threaten the security of US nationals or the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United States.Today’s action notifies the US public and the international community that Mohammad Yusuf Shah, AKA Syed Salahuddin, has committed, or poses a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism.

Here is what State Department said on its website:

Hizbul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for several attacks

The US statement said that the Hizbul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for several attacks, including the April 2014 explosives attack in Jammu and Kashmir, which injured 17 people. The designation of terrorist individuals and groups expose and isolate organizations and individuals, and result in denial of access to the US financial system. It can also complement the law enforcement actions of other nations.

The state department also stated that Syed Salahuddin, a senior leader of the militant group Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) had 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.’

Designations of terrorist individuals and groups expose and isolate organizations and individuals, and result in denial of access to the US financial system. Moreover, designations can assist or complement the law enforcement actions of other nations, it said.

Jonah Blank, senior political scientist explained, “This serves that in eyes of US, Syed Salahuddin, is not merely terrorist active against India, but globally. This would have more impact if it had been issued a long long time ago, eg. back when he was leading terrorist movement in Kashmir.”

The action against the Kashmiri militant group’s 71-year-old head, whose original name is Mohammed Yusuf Shah, comes against the backdrop of upsurge in terror activities and recruitment in the Valley. The US decision, which was welcomed by India, marks a serious blow to Pakistan where he has been taking refuge for the last 28 years, allegedly with the help of Pakistani authorities.

He is also the head of United Jihad Council, a conglomerate of several terror outfits like LeT and JeM which operate out of Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The announcement came just a few hours before Modi’s meeting with Trump.

The back-to-back meetings in Washington set the stage for the PM’s maiden Summit with Trump. Besides expanding counter-terror partnership, role by both New Delhi and Washington in stabilising Afghanistan, Indo-US partnership in Asia-Pacific, and expanding defence ties under ‘Make in India’ initiative were key highlights of Modi’s meetings with the two senior members of the Trump administration.

It is not clear how the US order will impact the Hizbul chief who operates out of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and has the support of the Pakistani government and its agencies. In 2014, the US had similarly placed the Pakistan-based Hafiz Saeed-run Jamaat-ud-Dawa in the list of banned foreign terrorist organisations.

Two years earlier, in 2012, the US announced a $10 million bounty for information leading to Hafiz Saeed arrest for his involvement in terrorist attacks, including the 2008 strike on Mumbai that killed more than 160 people, including six Americans.

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