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Sunday Special » Kaleidoscope

Posted at: Jan 7, 2018, 12:37 AM; last updated: Jan 7, 2018, 12:37 AM (IST)

Local Kashmiris being lured into suicide attacks via social media

Amir Karim Tantray & Suhail A Shah
Post-Lethpora attack, chances of JeM exploiting more youths to be a part of fiadyeen squads are high
Local Kashmiris being lured into suicide attacks via social media
Amir Karim Tantray in Jammu & Suhail A Shah in Anantnag

When militancy was being glamorized through social media campaign, politicians and security forces went into a huddle. They knew that dying militancy would get a new lease of life. Their fears came true. Figures say as much: since 2013 militancy is on a revival path. Worse, militants have glamorized fidayeen (suicide) attacks by posting a video on social media.

The December 31 fidayeen attack on a paramilitary training centre at Lethpora in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district is said to be watershed in the 28-year-old insurgency in the state. A local militant became a part of this attack, about 16 years after the 15 Corps headquarters at Badami Bagh in Srinagar faced a similar siege. This time, teenage local militant Fardeen Khanday, a part of the three-member squad, recorded a video on the pattern of Al-Qaida militants before launching the attack and releasing it on social media. The objective was clear: get attention of people in general and the youth in particular.

Ominous signs

Five CRPF men and three militants died in the siege that lasted more than 24 hours. Security experts believe this is a very dangerous trend, aimed at boosting the morale of other militants and luring more youth into the militant ranks.

Director General of Police (DGP) SP Vaid says the attack was an ominous sign for entire Kashmir. “The involvement of locals and their radicalization is a scary phenomenon,” says Vaid.

The latest threat adds to the headache of the state police and other agencies whose job is to bring disgruntled youth back to the mainstream. Security agencies suspect that post-Lethpora attack, there are real chances of Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) exploiting more youths to be a part of fiadyeen squads. “If these local men are able to do the JeM bidding, then the job of their handlers in Pakistan would become easier. Pakistan then does not have to send militants from across the border to carry out attacks in the state,” says a source. 

Dynamics of suicide attack

There are many factors responsible for fidayeen attacks where local elements are lured successfully. Experts believe that there are mainly six parameters of militancy in the state, four are internal and two have external links.

“First is the numerical strength of militants, the incidents involving them and the number of casualties on both sides — security forces and terrorists. If all these four figures are low, it would seem that terrorism is down. If first three figures are down, but the number of militants killed is high, that again is a healthy sign,” says Kuldeep Khoda, former DGP J&K. “Add to it two more factors: the number of incidents taking place on the border and successful infiltrations.” 

Khoda says all the six parameters of militancy peaked in 2001 and came down in 2012. “But since 2013 these have witnessed an upward swing. Local recruitment, which was 13 in 2013, 53 in 2014, 66 in 2015 and 88 in 2016, as per government figures,  has risen to 117 till November 2017, according to intelligence inputs. It will further go up, if we add December as well,” says Khoda.

There are other worrisome aspects. “Even after 28 years of militancy, we haven’t been able to stop infiltration. Each year the number of infiltration is increasing since 2012. Militancy-related incidents have increased, more security force personnel are getting killed and more militants have been neutralized. Plus, ceasefire incidents have also gone up,” Khoda says.

Uri attack & after

Sept 18, 2016: In a pre-dawn attack, 20 soldiers are killed as militants storm Uri Army Brigade HQ.

Nov 29: Militants storm 166 Field Regiment unit of 16 Corps area near Nagrota. 7 Army soldiers, including two officers, martyred. 3 militants neutralized

Jan 9, 2017: 3 labourers die in a pre-dawn attack by militants on a GREF camp near LoC in Akhnoor (two militants escape)

April 27: Armed militants storm an Army garrison in Panzgam near LoC in Kupwara (North Kashmir). 3 soldiers and two militants die.

June 5: 4 militants die in retaliatory fire by CRPF as they attempt to attack a 45th Battalion at Sumbal in Bandipora 

Aug 26: Eight SF men, including four CRPF Jawans, martyred when a group of fidayeen attack district police lines in Pulwama. 3 militants neutralized.

Oct 3: A BSF ASI dies in a suicide attack carried out by JeM on a BSF camp near Srinagar International Airport. 3 militants killed

Dec 31: 3 JeM militants attack a paramilitary training centre at Lethpora area of Pulwama. 5 CRPF men martyred and three militants killed

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