Signalling a rift in the militant outfit which has been fighting for Jammu and Kashmir's annexation to Pakistan since 1989, the terror group Hizbul Mujahideen today distanced itself from the statement of its commander Zakir Moosa against the separatist leadership.
"The outfit has neither got anything to do with the statement of Moosa nor the statement is acceptable to it," Hizbul Mujahideen spokesman Saleem Hashmi said in a statement from Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)
Terming Moosa's remarks in an audio slideshow that surfaced in Kashmir's social media as his "personal opinion", Hashmi cautioned that any statement or step which will create confusion "can prove a death knell for our struggle".
In the 5.40-minute audio, Moosa had warned the separatist leaders not to meddle in their aim to establish a caliphate in Jammu and Kashmir along the lines of the rule established by ISIS in parts of Syria and Iraq.
Hashmi said the outfit was pondering over the statement of Moosa and will not "hesitate in taking any step or rendering any sacrifice" in the interest of the ongoing struggle.
Director general of police SP Vaid had told PTI that the police had carried out a voice analysis and found that it was Moosa's voice.
The clip is seen as worrying twist in Kashmir's militancy which has largely been about independence and annexation to Pakistan without ever emphasising Islam or connecting it to jihad.
Hizbul Mujahideen is almost as old as the Kashmiri militancy which started in 1989. The group is made up almost entirely of local youths, and had always campaigned for joining Pakistan.
The clip surfaced after Hurriyat leaders recently sought to downplay the growing influence of ISIS ideology in the Valley.
Earlier this week, Hurriyat leaders like Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Yaseen Malik issued a joint statement in which they claimed that the Kashmir struggle has nothing to do with ISIS, al-Qaida and other such organisation.
Hashmi said the "entire leadership" demonstrated unity on all fronts after the killing of Hizbul's Burhan Wani in July last year and are striving to carry forward the ongiong "struggle for freedom and Islam".
"In such a situation, any statement or step which will create confusion can prove a death knell for our struggle and," Hashmi said and asked the youths to discourage "negative thinking and confused statements" in the media.