SRINAGAR More than 130 youths joined militant outfits this year, the highest since 2010, the majority of them affiliating with groups ideologically aligned with the Al-Qaeda, officials told news agency PTI on Sunday.
According to data compiled till July 31 this year, 131 youths joined various militant outfits with Shopian district contributing the maximum of 35. The number of local recruits last year was 126.
The officials said that many of these youngsters were joining the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, a group which claims support of Al-Qaeda and is headed by Zaqir Rashid Bhat alias Zaqir Musa, who hails from a village in the Tral area of Pulwama district.
Musas slogan of Shariyat ya Shahadat (Islamic law or martyrdom) has replaced many age-old pro-Pakistan slogans, said the officials who have been monitoring the security situation in Kashmir Valley.
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 Musas 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 said.
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 youthts to various terror groups operating in the Kashmir Valley.
This years 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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