Isis claims “province” in India for first time after clash in Kashmir

Isis claims “province” in India for first time after clash in Kashmir
Isis

Islamic State (IS) claimed for the first time that it has established a "province" in India, after a clash between militants and security forces in the contested Kashmir region killed a militant with alleged ties to the group.

IS's Amaq NewsAgency late on Friday announced the new province, that it called "Wilayahof Hind", in a statement that also claimed IS inflicted casualties onIndian army soldiers in the town of Amshipora in the Shopian district ofKashmir.

The IS statement corresponds with an Indian police statement on Friday that a militant called Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi was killed in an encounter in Shopian.

IS's statementestablishing the new province appears to be designed to bolster its standingafter the group was driven from its self-styled "caliphate" in Iraqand Syria in April, where at one point it controlled thousands of miles ofterritory.

IS has stepped uphit-and-run raids and suicide attacks, including taking responsibility for theEaster Sunday bombing in Sri Lanka that killed at least 253 people.

"Theestablishment of a 'province' in a region where it has nothing resemblingactual governance is absurd, but it should not be written off," said RitaKatz, director of the SITE Intel Group that tracks Islamic extremists.

"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 IS 'caliphate'."

Sofi had beeninvolved in several militant groups in Kashmir for more than a decade beforepledging allegiance to Islamic State, according to a military official onSaturday and an interview given by Sofi to a Srinagar-based magazinesympathetic to IS.

He was suspected ofseveral grenade attacks on security forces in the region, police and militarysources said.

"It was aclean operation and no collateral damage took place during the exchange offire," a police spokesman said in the statement on Friday's encounter.

The militaryofficial said it was possible that Sofi had been the only militant left inKashmir associated with IS.

Separatists havefor decades fought an armed conflict against Indian rule in Muslim-majorityKashmir. The majority of these groups want independence for Kashmir or to joinIndia's arch-rival Pakistan. They have not, like Islamic State, sought toestablish an empire across the Muslim world.

Nuclear powersIndia and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, and came to the brink ofa third earlier this year after a suicide attack by a Pakistan-based militantgroup killed at least 40 paramilitary police in the Indian-controlled portionof the region.

A spokesman forIndia's home ministry, which is responsible for security in Kashmir, did notrespond to a request for comment.

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