Alarm bells: Stone-pelters join militant ranks
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Police and security personnel are reporting a sudden surge in militancy in the Valley with a large number of local boys, who were part of the stone-throwing mobs just months ago, joining the ranks of militant groups, including the Lashkar-e-Toiba.
This is ringing alarm bells in the security establishment. For, one, this shift to the gun comes after a sharp fall in militant violence over the last few years. And, two, because these boys are not crossing over for training — but being trained here — there is an apprehension that groups fighting the Pakistani state across the border may also set up shop here, changing the very dynamics of the conflict.
Police say 150 militants are currently active in north Kashmir alone and in addition to the new local recruits, foreigners are also sneaking in.
Since last summer, police say, there have been 45 infiltration bids and 140 new militants have sneaked in. In fact, the Sopore police is searching for two militants from Chechnya, identified as Usman and Umar — the first time, police claim, Chechens have come to operate in Kashmir.
A confidential report compiled by J&K Police — a copy of which is with The Indian Express — shows how many of the boys arrested were part of the stone-throwing mob.
It reveals that a Lashkar commander Sajad Khan alias Shamas of Batamaloo who operates in Thannamandi, Rajouri, set up a module this October in his native locality in Srinagar.
And 14 youngsters joined it. Police claim that 18 grenades were recovered from them when the module was busted earlier this month. These young boys had no previous connection with militancy, said police, but actively took part in the stone-throwing.
The report has detailed intercepts of phone conversations and call details between Shamas and four of the youngsters who have been arrested. Shamas is still at large.