Security forces in Kashmir face a replacement challenge on the militancy front — the presence of “hybrid” militants who aren’t listed as ultras but persons radicalized enough to hold out a terror strike then slip back to the routine life.
Over the past few weeks the attacks on “soft targets” within the Valley, including in Srinagar, have witnessed a spike and most of the incidents are administered by the pistol-borne youth who aren’t listed as militants with the safety agencies, officials said.
The new trend has sent security agencies into a tizzy as these “hybrid” militants or “part-time” militants are very difficult to trace and pose a challenge to the safety forces.
The officials within the security establishment said the “hybrid” militant was a boy nearby who had been radicalized and kept on standby mode by the handlers for completing a terror incident.
“He carries out a task that’s given to him then waits for subsequent assignment from his masters. In between, he goes back to his normal work,” they said.
The officials said the new trend was happening within the valley in the directions of Pakistan and its spy agency, the ISI.
“The desperate nexus is modifying methods. Their desperation is showing. Now, it’s the preference for pistol-based targeting of sentimental targets. Targets which are unarmed and unlikely to retaliate like businessmen [including from the minority community], activists, political leaders without protection and off-duty policemen,” they said.
The officials said the aim was to spread fear and stop businesses and group action that “targets terrorists and their ecosystem.”
“They target and silence voices that are speaking against separatism and against the perpetrators and instigators of violence, that’s the aim,” the officials said.
‘Not random’ The security agencies believe this sort of targeting wasn’t random but properly planned.
“It isn’t random. It involves watching movement patterns and finding a weak spot of the routine. The spotter might be an OGW or maybe a hybrid terrorist who isn’t on the police list, but features a pistol and intent to kill, a bit like a mercenary shooter, paid to kill a target.
“It is an ecosystem where only numbers matter — hence the victim may haven’t any particular trait to urge killed — just a convenient soft target. For the killer, who it [the target]is, doesn’t matter,” they added.
Police had within the first week of September last year declared Srinagar city as “terrorist-free”. However, there are attacks on civilians and policemen then also and therefore the officials believe the attacks are the handiwork of the “hybrid” militants.
Such attacks have witnessed a spike over a previous couple of weeks. On Midsummer Eve, militants shot dead a 25-year-old shopkeeper, Umar Ahmed, outside his patronize Habbakadal within the interior areas of the town.
Before that, on June 22, militants killed inspector Parvez Ahmed Dar of the CID wing of the Jammu and Kashmir police in Kanipora Nowgam on the outskirts of Srinagar.
The CCTV footage of the attack clearly showed that two men came from behind and fired at him with a pistol.
On June 17, militants struck within the Saidpora area of Eidgah within the old city here and killed a policeman from close range. The policeman was off-duty.
Outside Srinagar, militants shot dead a special policeman, his wife, and daughter in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on June 27.
Inspector-General of Police, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar said there have been some sleeper cells, hybrid militants, within the city, but asserted the police would neutralize the module soon.
“We will soon neutralize the module active in Srinagar. There are some sleeper cells that we call part-time or hybrid terrorists. We are tracking full-time terrorists but there’s difficulty in tracking the part-time or hybrid terrorists as they are going back to their normal work after completing an event. But, we are keeping full surveillance and that we will get them soon,” he said.