IT'S hard to imagine that Muzzafarabad, which lies in the strikingly beautiful Neelam valley of rugged Kashmir, once housed a terror camp.
Singaporean Mohammad Sharif Rahmat, 35, a Jemaah Islamiyaah (JI) member since 1990, journeyed here to receive training in the 1990s.
Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan-based guerilla outfit fighting India for control over Kashmir, operated a training camp out of Muzzafarabad in the 1990s.
After the 11 Sep attacks in the US, LeT was shut down by General Pervez Musharraf, under pressure from the Americans.
There is no need for any surprise. Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir still houses many terror camps. And to correct another MSM error: LeT's ambition goes beyond Kashmir to install an Islamic Caliphate over the entire Indian subcontinent.
Mr Noor Ahmad, 21, was at one such camp for two years. He became a mujahideen six years ago when he joined the LeT.
He said: 'There were 70 people in my camp and 200 in the next camp. They were all from Pakistan and Kashmir.'He was then only 15 but had to perform night guard duty to keep intruders out.
Mr Mohammad Farooq, 28, a soldier with the Pakistani army, recalled seeing many Muslim visitors from Saudi Arabia, Indonesia and Malaysia.
It is clear that LeT has a vast network of operatives from different countries. This is not a hallmark of an organization fighting for 'freedom' from 'oppression' but a rather vicious organization with very sinister aims ranging from the United States (the Virginia paintball case) to Australia (plot to attack nuclear power station).
'Lashkar is very popular here,' Mr Farooq said. 'They fought for the common man.'
It is not hard to see how Lashkar draws such affection, even today. Just across the valley, it is operating a medical camp.
Mr Salman Shahid, the group's spokesman, leads us into a tent and sits us down with packets of fruit juice.
LeT operates here under a different name - Jamat ud Dawa.
When asked about the name change, Mr Shahid said: 'There is no explanation for it. Our leader just wanted to change the name.'
Indeed. This is what we noted while posting the organizational chart of LeT/JuD. The Lashkar group has been very active in mobilizing relief in Pakistani Kashmir after the earthquake. General Musharraf had to bite the bullet and had to admit this. But the aid money collected by them will obviously be used for terrorist activities and certainly against Indian interests. Read the related posts by Atanu Dey here and here.
LeT, or Army of the Pure, has been fighting a bloody battle with Indian forces in the Kashmir-Jammu region since 1989.
It is based in Muzaffarabad and Muridke, near Lahore, and has mobile training camps. Pakistan banned the group in 2002.
The group's link with Al-Qaeda was confirmed when Abu Zubaydah, a senior Al-Qaeda member, was captured at an LeT safehouse in Faisalabad, Pakistan, in March 2002.
Graduates of LeT are known to have fought alongside Taliban forces during their five-year rule and some have even met Osama bin Laden.
LeT's founder kept a high profile by touring the country and exhorting crowds to wage jihad against Indian forces in Kashmir. He officially quit the group before it was outlawed.
LeT was blamed by the Indian government for the December 2001 attack on the Indian parliament in New Delhi in which 14 people died, including the five gunmen.