27 July 2017

NIA probe unearths how Pakistan uses WhatsApp to fuel terror in Kashmir

Bharti Jain

NEW DELHI: NIA, during its analysis of social media activity of "habitual" Kashmiri stone-pelters as part of its J&K terror funding probe, found at least 28 WhatsApp groups whose creators, administrators and some members are based in Pakistanand include identified cadres of terror outfit Jamaat-ud-Dawah.

Sources in NIA on Tuesday told TOI that the WhatsApp groups together have 5,000 members, of which majority are local Kashmiris but a significant number are linked to Pakistani mobile numbers.

Many of these groups have either been created by a Pakistani or have Pakistanis as their administrators. "We have identified Pakistani numbers in the WhatsApp groups. Some of these numbers also show up in JuD posters and publicity material, confirming JuD link to the J&K youth who regularly pelt stones to disrupt ongoing anti-terror operations, allegedly on payment arranged by Hurriyat separatists," said an investigator.

The origin of the funds is believed to be in Pakistan, though NIA says it can establish more specific details after questioning the seven arrested Hurriyat leaders.

The messages on the 28 WhatsApp groups tracked by NIA range from religious posts, terror-inciting material to updates on J&K militancy and ongoing anti-terror operations. There are messages posted during encounters between the terrorists and security forces in J&K.

"The idea is to mobilise the local youth for stone-pelting at the encounter site so that the terrorists can escape," said an NIA officer. It was on the basis of these 28 WhatsApp groups that the NIA could zero in on phone numbers of 48 Kashmiri youth present at more than three encounter sites that saw stone-pelting over the past year.

While the call details of the 48 youth showed frequent telephonic contact with middle-level Hurriyat leaders, who in turn were in touch with top-ranking separatists.

The agency is likely to arrest at least a dozen "habitual" stone-pelters whose location has been mapped across various districts of south Kashmir.

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