Footprints of militants have been sharply increasing in the Kashmir Valley with as many as 50 young men taking to arms in the past six months, a senior police officer has said.
Most of these new recruits came from Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam districts in South Kashmir, which had become the hub of tech-savvy, young militants.
"A total of 50 Kashmiri youths joined militancy in the valley in 2017," the police officer told PTI.
Rising footprints of militants have raised concern among the security agencies, which believe the trend reflects the worsening situation in Kashmir.
The officer said that 88 Kashmiri youths joined militancy in 2016, the highest in the past six years.
Since 2014, there has been a constant rise in the number of people joining militancy.
As many as 66 youths joined militancy in Kashmir in 2015 and 53 in 2014, data compiled by security agencies revealed.
In 2010, 54 youths joined militancy and in 2011, the number came down to 23. It further dipped to 21 in 2012 and 16 in 2013, it said.
The Pulwama-Shopian-Kulgam region has become a hotbed of homegrown terrorists, the officer said.
Officers dealing with security aspects say Pulwama, which has of-late emerged as the terror epicentre, is strategically important as it is the central point to connect Srinagar, Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian and Budgam districts of Central Kashmir.
The new-age militants has speedily increased their footprints in Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian districts mainly because of the unprecedented support offered by the local population, the officer said.
"The areas have seen the highest number of encounters and attacks," the officer added.
Topography of Pulwama, with its vast orchards and fields ringed by dense forests, also provide a perfect shelter and operating cover to the militants.
Pulwama was home to Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani, who was killed in an encounter with security forces in July last year.
It is also the base of Abu Dujana, commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba militants in the Kashmir Valley, Abu Musa and dozens of other known militants.
Security forces have also foiled attempts by dozen others to cross over to the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir for arms training, the officer said.
In 2017, as many as 54 men were stopped from joining the ranks of militants, the officer said.
(Feature image source: PTI)