The small village of Soibug in the Budgam district of central Kashmir has earned a distinction it can possibly do without. Its former resident, Mohammed Yusuf Shah — better known as Syed Salahuddin — has been declared a “global terrorist” by the United States. But Salahuddin, one of the early architects of Kashmir’s militant movement, left the village — and the state — 30 years ago, when he crossed over to Pakistan, officials said. The chief of terrorist group Hizb-ul-Mujahideen was declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) by the US Department of State yesterday. In 2003, Dawood Ibrahim became the first Indian to be called an SDGT by the United States.
After earning a Master’s in political science from Kashmir University, Salahuddin started to convene small congregations which spoke the separatist language of ‘Al- Fateh’, a terror group that had surfaced in the early 1970’s but was eliminated by the Jammu and Kashmir police. The 71-year-old Salahuddin, who had become a ‘rukun’ (member) of the radicalised Jamaat-e-Islamia, decided to stand for assembly elections in 1987, contesting against veteran National Conference leader Ghulam Mohiuddin Shah from Amira Kadal. The elections kicked up a furore, as locals complained of widespread rigging. Salahuddin’s election agent, then an unknown young man called Yasin Malik, was thrashed by political workers, leaving members of the opposition — the Muslim United Front — angry and resentful.
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Many embittered young men started to cross into Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and join terrorist groups operating from there, the officials said.
Salahuddin was 43 when he crossed over, to join the Hizbul Mujahideen, widely believed to have been formed by Pakistan’s secret service, ISI, for annexing Jammu and Kashmir with Pakistan. As violent clashes became a daily affair in the Kashmir Valley, leading to widespread criticism of Pakistan, the ISI decided to make Salahuddin the face of militancy, the officials said. He was also made the chairman of a conglomerate of 13 terror groups called the United Jehad Council.
While Salahuddin operated from POK, his family — he has five sons and two daughters — moved out of Soibug to an uptown locality in Srinagar.
All his sons are well placed in various Jammu and Kashmir government departments. His youngest son, Mueed Yusuf, was rescued by the Indian Army in October last year when he was holed up inside the Entrepreneurship Development Institute (EDI) building in Srinagar, which had been attacked by militants.
Several cases are pending against Salahuddin, including one related to terror funding through fictitious NGOs allegedly floated by separatists.
An Interpol Red Corner notice has also been issued against him. His organisation, the HM, is banned under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act for carrying out terrorist activities in India and receiving funds from Pakistan and the Gulf.