Local militants highest since 2010, many joining Zakir Musa led group

Dangerous trends have started surfacing on the militancy front in Jammu andKashmir with nearly 130 youths joining various militant outfits this year, the highest since 2010, and a majority of them affiliating themselves with groups ideologically aligned with the Al-Qaeda, officials said here, PTI reported.

According to data compiled till July 31, around 131 youths have joined various miltants outfits with South Kashmir’s Shopian district contributing the maximum of 35 so far. The number of local recruits last year was 126.

The officials say that many youngsters are joining the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, a group which claims support of Al-Qaeda and is headed by Zakir Rashid Bhat alias Zakir Musa.

The acceptance of this group is steadily increasing as Musa emerged as the only militant who ended the 27-year-old show of separatists leaders from Hurriyat Conference and threatened them of beheading if they termed Kashmir as a political issue.

Musa’s slogan of “Shariyat ya Shahadat” (Enforcing Islamic law or death) has replaced many age-old pro-Pakistan slogans, feel the officials who have been monitoring the security situation in the Kashmir Valley.

The 24-year-old engineering college drop-out has been able to capture the imagination of youths, especially after the death of Hizbul Mujahideen poster boy Burhan Wani, who was killed in 2016.

He was good at studies as well as sports and had represented the state in inter-state carom championship, recalls a senior police official, adding this is one of the reasons that he has started emerging as a hero to many youths in the Valley.

Believed to have been influenced by Anwar al-Awlaki, a Yemini-American preacher killed by allied forces attack in Afghanistan in September 2011, Musa has been mainly focussing on recruitment for his outfit and brainwashing the youths to pick up arms.

Awlaki too was considered the brain behind recruitment for Al-Qaeda.

His motivational skills left militant groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba also in a fix when he was able to draw Abu Dujana into his group, the officials said.

Though the Jammu and Kashmir Police has time and again termed Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind as a non-starter in the valley, the growing popularity and graffiti of his name and slogans have taken maximum spaces of towns and villages.

ISJK, an affiliate of the banned ISIS, was also a source of attraction for youths but after the killing of its chief Dawood Sofi, the group does not find many takers.

The officials of security agencies said the highly-volatile South Kashmir comprising Shopian, Pulwama, Anantnag, Kulgam and Awantipora districts continued to contribute more youths to the militant groups and together these five districts have contributed over 100 youths to various militant groups operating in the Kashmir Valley.

This year’s figures were the highest since 2010, according to a recent data presented in the state assembly and Parliament.

There has been a steady rise in the number of youths taking up arms in the valley since 2014 onwards as compared to the period from 2010 to 2013 when the figure stood at 54, 23, 21 and 6 respectively. In 2014, the number shot up to 53 and in 2015, it reached 66 before touching the highest mark of 88 in 2016, the data showed

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