Security forces in Kashmir are facing a new challenge on the militancy front — the presence of “hybrid” militants who are not listed as ultras but persons radicalised enough to carry out a terror strike and then slip back into the routine life.
Over the past few weeks the attacks on “soft targets” in the Valley, including in Srinagar, have witnessed a spike and most of the incidents have been carried out by the pistol-borne youth who are not listed as militants with the security 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 track and pose a challenge to the security forces.
The officials in the security establishment said the “hybrid” militant was a boy next door who had been radicalised and kept on standby mode by the handlers for carrying out a terror incident.
“He carries out a task that is given to him and then waits for the next assignment from his masters. In between, he goes back to his normal work,” they said.
The officials said the new trend was happening in the valley on the directions of Pakistan and its spy agency, the ISI.
“The desperate nexus is modifying methods. Their desperation is showing. Now, it is the preference for pistol-based targeting of soft 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 social activity 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 is the aim,” the officials said.
The security agencies believe this type of targeting was not random, but properly planned.
“It is never random. It involves watching movement patterns and finding a weak part of the routine. The spotter could be an OGW or even a hybrid terrorist who is not on the police list, but has a pistol and intent to kill, just like a mercenary shooter, paid to kill a target.
“It is an ecosystem where only numbers matter — hence the victim may have no particular trait to get killed — just a convenient soft target. For the killer, who it [the target] is, does not matter,” they added.
Police had in the first week of September last year declared Srinagar city as “terrorist-free”. However, there have been attacks on civilians and policemen after that as well and the officials believe the attacks are the handiwork of the “hybrid” militants.
Such attacks have witnessed a spike over the last few weeks. On June 23, militants shot dead a 25-year-old shopkeeper, Umar Ahmed, outside his shop at Habbakadal in the interior areas of the city.
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 in the Saidpora area of Eidgah in the old city here and killed a policeman from close range. The policeman was off-duty.
Outside Srinagar, militants shot dead a special police officer, his wife and daughter in Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on June 27.
Inspector General of Police, Kashmir, Vijay Kumar said there were some sleeper cells, hybrid militants, in the city, but asserted the police would neutralise the module soon.
“We will soon neutralise 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 is difficulty in tracking the part-time or hybrid terrorists as they go back to their normal work after carrying out an incident. But, we are keeping full surveillance and we will get them soon,” he said.