National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the ‘terror funding’ case, has identified 117 suspects who allegedly led stone-pelting groups of youths, using WhatsApp groups to spread instructions in Kashmir, media reports said. Meanwhile, the NIA claimed to have arrested two people from South Kashmir for allegedly fanning protests using social media.
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, sources, as per reports said.
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.
The probe, as per the reports, 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.
Interestingly, in a development later on Tuesday, NIA arrested two alleged stone pelters, who according to the sources were the ‘ring leaders’ in their respective areas. The arrested youth have been identified as Javaid Ahmad Bhat from Kulgam and Kamran Yousuf from Pulwama.
Meanwhile, seven separatists- Altaf Shah, Ayaz Akbar, Peer Saifullah, Mehraj Kalwal, Shahid-ul-Islam, Naeem Khan and Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate are under detention and have been sent on judicial remand and were booked on charges of ‘criminal conspiracy’ and ‘waging war against India.’