Following a six-month probe into incidents of unrest in Kashmir, a team of National Investigation Agency (NIA) has identified 117 suspects who allegedly led stone-pelting groups of youths, using WhatsApp groups to spread instructions, according to information. Sources said investigators have identified 79 WhatsApp groups that are allegedly used to spread messages and gather crowds. Many of these groups have administrators based in Pakistan.
According to a source privy to details of the probe, 6,386 phone numbers were found part of these WhatsApp groups. Of them, around 1,000 were found active in Pakistan and Gulf nations. The remaining 5,386 numbers were found active in various parts of the Valley and neighbouring states.
The source said a team of undercover NIA officers infiltrated these groups, and besides intelligence inputs, investigators used technical surveillance, GPS and satellite imagery to zero in on suspects. The NIA is learnt to have prepared a detailed dossier of incidents — this includes pictures of suspects and other details such as their phone numbers, WhatsApp groups, social media account details, locations of stone-pelting incidents and locations of suspects’ homes marked on maps.
Among WhatsApp groups under the scanner are the likes of “valley of tears”, “pulwama rebels”, “daftare surat auliyan sophiyan”, “FrEEdom FigHtErz”, “Tehreek E Azaadi123”, “Mugahideen-a-Islam”, “Al Jahad”, etc. According to the source, the probe found that most stone-pelters operated in a 25-30-km radius of their homes. All 117 suspects are allegedly involved in at least three incidents. The probe has also identified four major sources of funding for “anti-national elements” across the Valley: barter trade at the border, admission of Kashmir residents on medical seats in Pakistan colleges as per a set quota of seats allocated to various separatist leaders, through pilgrims, and through hawala transactions.
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