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Behind Kashmir civilian killings, local men ‘made terrorists online less than 10-15 days earlier’

Kashmir IG Vijay Kumar says police retaliating with full force through more encounters & swift arrests. In May alone, 27 terrorists 'killed in encounters and 22 arrested'.

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New Delhi: Four civilians have been shot dead in the Kashmir Valley in the last one month. Of these, three were victims of local men recruited by the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) less than 10-15 days before the killings, ThePrint has learnt.

Although the number of Valley residents being recruited by terror outfits hasn’t drastically changed as compared to last year, these groups have now started approaching local youngsters via the internet, sources in the J&K Police told ThePrint.

“We have information and several intercepts of terror organisations luring youngsters over the internet,” said a police source.

On Tuesday, Rajni Bala, a teacher from Samba district, was shot dead while she was on her way to work at a school in Kulgam. The assailants, who shot her from close range using a pistol, were hybrid terrorists from the LeT, according to J&K Police sources.

Amreena Bhat, a television actor, was killed on 25 May, allegedly by two local LeT terrorists. One of them was “categorised” while the other was a “hybrid” terrorist recruited by the LeT just 10 days before the attack, still undergoing training in pistol firing, the sources said.

Ranjit Singh, an employee of a wine shop, succumbed to a grenade attack by another newly recruited hybrid terrorist of the LeT, on 17 May, they added.

While ‘categorised’ terrorists are those who have a criminal record, ‘hybrid’ terrorists are those who have no prior history of having committed a crime, which makes it harder to track them down. The latter have become a major challenge for the police, and, in most cases, they are local residents, the sources said.

Credit: Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint
Credit: Ramandeep Kaur | ThePrint

At least 12 young men from the region joined militancy ranks in May alone. Four of them were killed in encounters within days of being recruited, according to figures provided by the J&K Police.

In 2021, over 61 men had joined terror outfits in the Valley till May. This year, the number stood at 52.

“Three out of four killings last month were carried out by hybrid militants, who were fresh recruits and had joined militancy just 10-15 days before the killings,” Kashmir’s Inspector General (IG) of Police Vijay Kumar told ThePrint.

“The terror organisations are desperate to recruit people and that is why they are picking these hybrid terrorists or part-timers, who are local residents, to widen their base. They are reaching out to many youngsters over the internet,” he added. 

IG Kumar, however, said that the J&K Police have been retaliating with full force by increasing the number of encounter operations and making swift arrests.

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27 terrorists killed, 22 arrested in May alone

A total of 27 terrorists were killed in encounters in the Valley in May alone, said Kumar, adding that 17 of them were local residents and 10 were Pakistanis.

Twenty-two terrorists were arrested in the same month, and the police also busted five terror modules, recovering over 15 pistols in one instance, he added.

“It definitely is a challenge, but we have been pushing back with full force. In May, among the four cases of civilian killings, in three cases, we have either killed the terrorists involved or have arrested them,” the IG told ThePrint.

“Among the 12 newly recruited terrorists in the Valley, four have been killed and eight are active,” he added.

According to Kumar, the “Pakistani terrorist who was involved in the 12 May killing of Kashmiri Pandit Rahul Bhat, an employee of the revenue department in Budgam, has been killed”, while those responsible for the murder of actor Amreena Bhat were killed in an “encounter”. 

The terrorists who killed wine shop employee Ranjit Singh have been arrested and pistols along with 23 grenades were recovered from them, he added.

According to J&K Police data, accessed by ThePrint, 27 civilians have been killed in the Kashmir Valley since October last year. 

The data shows that 21 of these 27 were local residents, including sarpanches, and six “outsiders” or people from other parts of the country who either worked as labourers in agricultural fields or construction sites, or in shops as helpers. 

Most of the killings were carried out by The Resistance Front, an arm of the LeT, police sources said.

‘Pistol popular weapon, terrorists operate on case-to-case basis’

Of the 27 killings since October, 11 were carried out by hybrid terrorists, police data says.

“The pistol is the new popular weapon and training to these men is given online. They don’t even meet their handlers. Even the target is conveyed through online instructions from Pakistan,” Kumar said.

“They (local terror recruits) are operating on a case-to-case basis. Their parents, neighbours, no one knows that they are associated with any terror group. They are recruited online, given training online and even the target is conveyed online,” he added. “The weapon is sent to them through a second person. They execute the killing and then return the pistol. They then go back to their daily lives.”

(Edited by Gitanjali Das)

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