Pakistani terror groups are now cyber-recruiting in J&K: Officials

Officials said in about 40 cases, recruitment was done and indoctrination carried out via social media

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Security crackdowns have made terror groups change their modus operandi for carrying out recruitment in Jammu and Kashmir. Instead of establishing physical contact with their prospective recruits, the terror groups too now have resorted to using the cyber space.

According to officials, Pakistani intelligence agency and terror groups are using applications in the cyber and mobile space for direct physical interactions in J&K. The ISI handlers from Pakistan are now using fake videos of Indian armed forces allegedly committing atrocities to whip up emotions among the recruits, they quote intelligence reports as suggesting.

Establishing physical contact was earlier the usual method used by the terrorist handlers to recruit new members in their ranks, but a change in recruitment mode was necessitated by the crackdowns by security agencies, which resulted in the busting of over two dozen terror modules and arrest of 40 terrorist sympathisers in 2020 alone.

Insights by surrendered terrorists

Terrorists Tawar Waghey and Amir Ahmed Mir had surrendered before 34 Rashtriya Rifles of the Army late last month, following which they had given an insight into their joining of the terror modules that showed that cyber recruitment was being carried out on a large scale.

Both Waghey and Mir had come in contact with a Pakistan-based handler via Facebook. He had indoctrinated them and then handed them over to a recruiter code-named Khalid and Mohammed Abbas Sheikh. The two terrorists received training online through various links available on platforms like YouTube and both of them had met their local contact only once in Shopian in south Kashmir, according to the officials.

This, according to the officials, is done to avoid the exposure of sleeper cells created by Pakistan’s ISI within the valley. Security agencies have busted several modules following intelligence inputs provided by local residents.

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The two terrorists, after being recruited into The Resistance Front (TRF), believed to be a shadow outfit of banned group Lashkar-e-Taiba, were receiving orders as well as religious teachings from Pakistan-based Burhan Hamza. The officials said there were around 40 such cases where the recruitment was done and indoctrination carried out through social media, especially in south Kashmir. The new recruits were awaiting orders from across the border.

Terror groups are definitely facing a shortage of arms and that is one of the reasons why Pakistan-based terror outfits are more focused on sending more arms and less manpower, the officials said. They gave an example of last month’s encounter on the outskirts of the Jammu city where a valley-bound group of four terrorists was carrying 11 assault rifles and a huge quantity of ammunition.

The story of a cyber-recruit

The death of a 22-year-old local terrorist Amir Siraj in north Kashmir late last month was yet another case of cyber recruitment, officials said.

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A final year graduation student from Khawaja Gilgat in Sopore, Siraj was staying with his maternal uncle in Adipora in north Kashmir and would spend most of his afternoons playing football in the local ground. He went missing on the afternoon of June 24, 2020.

Later, it was found that he had been recruited by the terror group, Jaish-e-Mohammed from across the border via social media, officials said. Though Siraj had expressed his desire to surrender, he was threatened by his accomplice that he and his family would be killed if he were to act on it, they added.

(With inputs from agencies)