When guns replace the pen: How Wani, Nibras created a new league of 'educated' militants

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Hizbul's poster boy-Burhan Muzaffar Wani-did not just have the looks, but he also had the heart. One might find it strange when we say that for a militant who killed many innocent soldiers, but consider his social media campaign.

He assures Amarnath pilgrims that the militants would not attack them and on a similar note, he invites Kashmiri Pundits to come back to their land, but not expect an 'Israel-like' situation.

Burhan Muzaffar Wani

Indeed! This 22-year old man had other intentions and they had nothing to do with common man. Burhan's enemies were the army and the men in uniform. And he has every reason to hate them. The fact that his elder brother was killed in an encounter when he was out with his three friends, trying to meet Burhan (who had by then fled the house. The military alleged that the brother was trying to recruit his friends in Burhan's army, but that is yet to be ascertained.

While this shows the vicious cycle between the security forces' strive to protect the common man and the creation of a new militant in town with every such encounter, the fact that militancy is seeing a legacy in educated recruits makes it even more unacceptable.

[Read: Why killing Hizbul terrorist Burhan Wani was "absolutely" necessary ]

Wani and the Dhaka terrorists

Wani's father is the Principal of a Higher Secondary School in the Tral town of Pulwama district. Deeply respected by his students, he had passed on his intellect to his son. Burhan was very good at studies and his teachers expected him to do well in life. But he proved them wrong when he left studies at the age of 15 and joined the Hizbul in 2010.

[Read: Burhan Wani killed: 300 online accounts from Pakistan propagate hate]

Burhan became the face of Hizbul since then. Images and videos of him started doing the rounds of the Internet, which were posted to radicalise young Muslims. In one of his videos he appealed youth to join Hizbul Mujahideen and is considered to have recruited at least 30 young boys from South Kashmir. His internet presence turned him into a hero when he posted a photo of his playing cricket with fellow militants.

Wani was not alone

Three out of six terrorists in Dhaka bakery shooting belomged to educated and rich background. Nibras Islam had studied at a top private university in Dhaka and had also pursued higher studies in Monash University's Malaysia campus. Meer Saameh Mubasheer, the second terrorist, was a Class-11 student who was on his way to the coaching center when he changed his mind and joind jihad. The third one Rohan Imtiaz was the son of a leader of the Awami League.

[Read: Dhaka: When the smiling gunmen chose non-Muslim targets, Muslim boy chose to die beside Hindu friend]

Bengaluru-based software engineer from West Bengal-Mehdi Masroor Biswas-had become the talk of the town when he was caught managing the Twitter account of the ISIS for past many years. Although he was not directly connected to the ISIS, his Twitter handle had become the information source for many new recruits trying to join the ISIS. The software engineer has been charged with offences including waging war against a friendly nation and violation of India's Information Technology Act.

Karnataka's director general of police for L Pachuau said, "His Twitter handle had become a source of information for new recruits of Islamic State. He was in touch with the English-speaking terrorists from the terrorist group, thereby abetting them. Although many of his posts on Twitter were translations from Arabic tweets, there were some original tweets which we are investigating."

Portraits of recruits

A research study by a computer scientist from North Carolina Zeeshan ul-hassan Usmani estimates that there are over 71,000 people in the west (North America, Australia and Europe) ready to be radicalised. And contrary to popular belief, recruits from Europe and US are more likely to be educated and belonging to the upper echelons of the society.

[Read: Dhaka Siege: Unfinished stories and those who live to tell them ]

Usmani has come to this conclusion after tracking the Twitter and the social media activity of thousands of men and women. Here are some of the other top findings by him, George Washington University's "ISIS in America" report and Brooking Institution's "The ISIS Twitter Census" report:

1. In their 20s (GWU found the average age is 26)
2. Predominately male (GWU found 86% are male)
3. Usually middle or upper class (Usmani estimates 73% of recruits and likely radicals are middle class or wealthier).
4. More likely to be 2nd or 3rd generation immigrants (Usmani finding. It is likely because they don't feel "at home" in either culture).
5. They don't like selfies (In Europe, over half of Facebook users post selfies, but only 1% of potential recruits do, Usmani found).
6. Far more likely to use Android (nearly 70% have Android devices, according to Brookings)
7. More active on Twitter than average Twitter user (Brookings found 62% of ISIS supporters had tweeted within the past month versus just 13% of all Twitter users).
8. Want to go abroad. (GWU found that about half attempt to travel abroad if they live in West).

(Courtesy: CNN Money)

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