In a significant change in strategy, terrorist groups in the Kashmir valley are working to target security forces and their establishments while making sure that there is no civilian casualty. The strategy, communicated by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to the Ministry of Home Affairs, has been devised to gather more popular support for the militant groups. Backing for such groups has seen a steady increase recently.

Government sources said that militant groups, particularly Hizbul Mujahideen, which is the most “popular” terror group operating in the valley, have asked their cadre not to carry out attacks with a possibility of civilian casualties.

“This way, the Hizbul will further strengthen its popularity in the valley and this will also lead to more local youths being attracted towards the group. Almost all the terrorist groups in the valley are keen to recruit more and more locals so as to paint an image that the disturbance in the valley is genuine and supported by the locals rather than being instigated by Pakistan,” an official said.

In a video released last week, Burhan Wani, the 24-year-old Hizbul Mujahideen commander portrayed as the “poster boy” of local Kashmiri terrorists, had assured safety to Amarnath pilgrims for their upcoming pilgrimage. “Militants have no plan and will never attack pilgrims who arrive in Kashmir for the Amarnath Yatra. They are pilgrims and we will not attack them,” said Wani in a 6:17 minute video.

Wani, who according to officials has single-handedly recruited around 30 local youths in the past one-and-a-half year, has also said that Kashmiri Pandits, who were forced to leave Kashmir in the late 1980s, can come back and live in the valley without any fear.

“This narration by Wani is in sync with our observation that the terrorists are now trying to give an image that they are not against anyone except the ‘occupational’ Indian Army and police. The whole strategy is to make Kashmir appear as an ‘occupational problem’, on the lines of Israel-Palestine,” the official said.

Officials said that it has become difficult for the security forces to carry out anti-terror operations in recent times as some of the locals in the valley are becoming more vocal about their support to the terror groups. “There have been multiple instances where we had to delay our operation to capture a terrorist holed up inside a house, as locals start gathering and creating a cordon around the house and resist our actions. One of the reasons for this is that the terrorist who is surrounded is a local and hence known to the local residents, which leads to creation of sympathy,” the official said.

The valley is right now witnessing a competition among various terrorist groups, including Pakistan-based Lashkar and Jaish, who are trying to outdo each other by carrying out more and more terror operations.

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