New Delhi: The arrest of a 20-year-old terrorist in South Kashmir has security forces concerned about a surge in young men signing up for terror groups, many of them via social media, and the fact that they are training locally now, often with guns snatched from policemen. Earlier, terror recruits would travel across the Line of Control into Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir for boot camp.
- 50 young men in South Kashmir alone recruited by Hizbul Mujahideen
- But Pak-based Jaish-e-Mohammed is making gains too: sources
- "New-age terrorists" are local, social media-savvy: sources
Arzoo Bashir Najar, 20, who was arrested yesterday, was using Facebook to connect with other young men interested in joining terror groups. Pictures released by security forces show him posing with a gun - an ode of sorts to Burhan Wani ,the wildly popular 22-year-old commander of the Hizbul Mujahideen, who was killed a little over a year ago, triggering months of violence in the Kashmir Valley in which nearly 100 people were killed including security personnel in near-daily clashes.
Najar, the son of a shopkeeper, was originally a part of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed; he then switched to the Hizbul, an indigenous terror group funded by Pakistan, and operated in Tral, about 40 kms from Srinagar. Tral was also the home base of Burhan Wani.
"He initially joined Jaish-e-Mohammad in the Tral area but due to some differences with them he came and joined Hizbul," a senior police officer disclosed to NDTV.
Najar is typical of the young men who are being radicalized and recruited by terrorists at a worrying speed, said sources. The state intel department says that in the last year, the Hizbul Mujahideen have recruited at least 50 young men in South Kashmir alone.
"These are the boys who we have account of - there are some who just go missing and no one in their family raises the issue," explained a senior police officer.
In the last 10 months, 65 terrorists have been killed in the same South Kashmir region; most of them were locals, not infiltrators from Pakistan.
Sources say that many young men are now gravitating towards the Jaish-e-Mohammed which is seen as more organised and better funded than other groups like the Hizbul.
"The local groups suffered a huge loss as many who got killed were local terrorists, so now Jaish is trying to occupy the space which has been created," explained a security official who asked that his identity not be revealed on account of the sensitive information he is sharing.
Till recently, security agencies believed, based on intercepted calls, that the Jaish-e-Mohammed had almost been wiped out in the Valley. But in the last two months, intel inputs suggest that its cadre in the area are getting stronger - specially in south Kashmir - the epicentre of the region's new-age militants inspired by Burhan Wani.
"The life span of a foreign terrorist is very less as compared to a local one as they do not have a support system," said a senior official. "On an average, if a local terrorist survives for about four years, the foreign terrorists get eliminated in about two years or even less.
Though the Jaish-e-Mohammed has in the last two years executed some of the deadliest attacks on military bases, its strength locally was being depleted, said officials, who claim that new evidence now suggests otherwise. Pakistan, they allege, does not want to allow for any let up in attacks and is providing more resources and support to help the Jaish-e-Mohammed gain ground.