Nearly 100 Kashmiri youths, who travelled to Pakistan on valid visas for short durations, have either not come back or have disappeared after their return in last three years, raising an alarm within security agencies which fear that they could be possible sleeper cells of terror groups operating from across the border.
Alarm bells rang in April last year when a group of five terrorists were killed in jungles of the border area of Handwara in North Kashmir. One of them was a local who went to Pakistan in 2018 and had not returned since, various officials from security agencies said.
Between April one to six of last year, youths hailing from Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag districts of South Kashmir were seen as part of the infiltrating groups of terrorists and all of them had travelled to Pakistan on valid documents and never returned thereafter, they said.
Security agencies, along with the immigration officials at Wagah border as well as at the New Delhi airport, have been collecting data of Kashmiri youths who travelled on valid visa for durations ranging more than seven days over the last three years, the officials said.
The figures were astonishing and in some of the cases it was found that the youths never returned and in others they disappeared after their return, raising speculation that they could have become "sleeper cells", waiting for instructions from the masters in Pakistan's snooping agency, ISI, or handlers in terror groups located across the border.
Kashmiri youths, who travelled to Pakistan even two years back, were called for questioning and a proper analysis of their activities after their return was being carried out by the security agencies, the officials said, adding some inconvenience was caused but precaution was always better than cure.
Those questioned by the security agencies were asked a valid reason for their travel to Pakistan, the officials said, adding that the background history of all these people was checked and verified at the minutest level.
While the security agencies believe that there was a six weeks' training course for new terror recruits, intelligence inputs suggest that some of the youths were provided a quick module of fabrication of improvised explosive devices using easily available explosive material within a week's time, they said.
The recruitment of youths for various terror organisations is also being carried out discreetly and it is quite possible these youths could also be doubling as "recruiters" for brain-washing of vulnerable men in the militancy affected union territory.
The missing youth are mainly from an average middle class and have been described as the new faces of terrorism in Kashmir. They could be waiting for delivery of arms and ammunition for all of them which has been substantially been choked due to heightened surveillance at the Line of Control, they said.
(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)