The Resistance Front (TRF) is the product of one of the several efforts, often repeated over the past two decades by Rawalpindi, to give terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) an “indigenous” face and to provide Pakistan’s deep state an alibi.
According to intelligence sources, the outfit emerged as an online virtual identity, acting as a mouthpiece for major Pakistan-based terror outfits such as Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), Jaish-e-Muhammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). Thereafter, it has sought to claim a number of terrorist attacks executed by cadres of these groupings.
On May 4, four people, including three Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) troopers and a 14-year-old physically challenged boy were killed when several terrorists attacked a group of CRPF personnel in Kupwara District’s Wangam village. The responsibility of the attack was later claimed by TRF.
On May 2, five Security Force (SF) personnel were killed in an encounter at the Chanjmulla area in Handwara region of Kupwara district. Two terrorists were also killed in the encounter. One of the two terrorists killed in the operation was later identified by the police as LeT “commander”, Haider, a Pakistani national. The other was a local terrorist, a resident of Handwara. However, TRF claimed the attack.
On April 18, three CRPF personnel were killed and another two sustained injuries when a lone militant with an AK-47 rifle concealed under his traditional robe struck at a security checkpoint in Sopore, Baramulla District. TRF admitted responsibility for the attack.
On April 4, five SF personnel were killed in Kupwara District. Following a ceasefire violation that took place in the intervening night of April 1-2, a movement of infiltrating terrorists was first picked in the Keran sector (opposite Shalabatho in Pakistan) on April 2.
On April 4, two teams of the 4 Para were inducted into the area. A hand-to-hand combat and close fire occurred that left five Special Forces personnel killed in action. All five terrorists who had sneaked in from Pakistan were also killed. The TRF later claimed the killing of five Special Forces personnel.
Originally, TRF announced its arrival online via the encrypted chat platform following a grenade attack in Srinagar’s Hari Singh High Street, in which seven civilians were injured. In its first message, posted on Telegram, taking responsibility of the grenade attack, TRF stated,
Five days later, on Oct 17, 2019, it posted a “warning” for the Indian Government, “If India thinks of changing the direction of waters then it will be dooms day (sic) for India & blood will flow in every state of India.”
This social media account, according to the internet protocol address, was being operated from Islamabad, mostly from an iPhone device. Facing regular blocking on Telegram, TRF turned to other platforms simultaneously to create a backup, prominently including TamTam, an encrypted Russian messaging platform. TRF is claiming terror attacks in an effort to raise the group’s profile and encourage youths to join its ranks..
The group was apparently formed after Aug 5, 2019, when the Indian Parliament scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and divided the state into two centrally-administered Union Territories – Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
The outfit, which owes allegiance to the Lashkar-e-Taiba and two other Pakistan-based groups, first made an appearance in the valley in September last year. Their J&K Commander Anas Mustafa, who hails from Kakapura in Pulwama, reports to a Pakistan-based chief who uses “Andrew Jones” as his alias on Telegram. It is still too early to predict the future trajectory of TRF. The formation of the group may be seen as an attempt to consolidate manpower, strength,and training of various terrorist formations in J&K under a single identity and to create a new “front” to project to the world that the militancy in Kashmir is a “homegrown resistance movement”, distanced from Pakistani sponsorship and the terrorist groupings that are under FATF scrutiny.
This article was first published in INDIABLOOMS