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‘Faceless hybrid terrorists’: How Pakistani groups create unrest in Kashmir, according to NIA

NIA says new cadres being inducted don't have a record with police or intelligence agencies, and are locals. They carry out attacks and then mingle with populace.

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New Delhi: Pakistan-based terror organisations are creating unrest in Kashmir by floating “pseudo-terror outfits” portrayed as “indigenous resistance groups”, a chargesheet filed by National Investigation Agency has said. The chargesheet adds that the organisations are inducting locals as “hybrid terrorists” by first radicalising them over the internet and then providing them online training in shooting.

The chargesheet was filed by the NIA Friday against 25 accused, in a case that pertains to hatching of a conspiracy both in physical as well as cyber space for undertaking violent terrorist acts in J&K and other parts of the country, by cadres of banned terrorist organisations like Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), Al-Badr and their affiliates.

Since last year, the Valley has been struck by a spate of civilian killings, for which outfits such as The Resistance Front (TRF), People Against Fascist Forces (PAFF), United Liberation Front J&K (ULF), Muslim Janbaaz Force (MJF), Kashmir Janbaaz Force (KJF), Kashmir Tigers, Kashmir Fight, Mujahideen Gazwat-ul-Hind, and Kashmir Ghaznavi Force, have claimed responsibility.

According to NIA sources, post the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, these groups have been “propped up by Pakistan-based terror outfits” and are being used to carry out attacks in a modus operandi that can be denied at the international level.

One of the reasons for this, sources said, is that Pakistan has been on terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF)’s grey list since 2018 for failing to check money laundering, leading to terror financing.

“These (new) organisations have suddenly mushroomed in Jammu and Kashmir, laying claims to various terrorist acts. Our investigation has established that all these pseudo-outfits are in fact offshoots/rechristened versions of banned terrorist organisations based in Pakistan and have been floated under a deep-rooted conspiracy to portray terrorism in Jammu & Kashmir as home-grown insurgency,” an NIA officer said.

A source from the J&K Police said local youth are being inducted, trained and then used to carry out civilian killings, as they have no criminal record and can go into hiding easily.

Also read: Many Pandits move out, Sikhs worried as Kashmir minorities fear ‘return of 1990’ after killings

‘Youth inducted and trained online’

Handlers in Pakistan are running a “well-organised propaganda machinery” which is operating in “cyberspace” through various websites, blogs, social media handles and closed channels on encrypted communication platforms, NIA sources said.

These platforms, the sources added, are being used to target the youth in Kashmir, with an intent to “radicalise them and motivate them to join terrorist ranks or as over-ground workers (OGW) for support to terrorist activities”.

“Once radicalised, new recruits are provided online training in handling of weapons, explosives, use of online stealth mechanisms such as virtual numbers and VPNs and communications over encrypted platforms, so as to avoid detection by law enforcement agencies,” one of the sources said.

According to the source, NIA’s investigation has also revealed a “clear shift” in the strategy of terrorist organisation towards targeted killings of minorities, civilians, migrants, government officials and unguarded security personnel.

‘No record’

A key element of this conspiracy, sources said, is induction of new cadres in the form of “hybrid terrorists”, who do not have any record with the police or intelligence agencies and are locals.

“There is no record of these hybrid terrorists with the police or agencies. They can be anyone, a student, or a shopkeeper. These outfits give such people pistol-training online and then give them their target,” the source from J&K Police said. “After carrying out the attack, such recruits can easily merge with the local population, or get back to their daily life,” the source added.

“These are people belonging to various walks of life, who could use their cover to remain rooted in society and simultaneously carry out instructions of their terrorist handlers,” the NIA source said.

“While acting as an OGW, they also indulge in terrorist activities such as grenade-lobbing, undertaking lone wolf attacks on vulnerable targets, and arson,” the source added.

(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)

Also read: NIA conducts searches in J&K in TRF terror recruitment case

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