(Kashmir), Mar 20: Considered a highly political sensitive area of the Valley, South Kashmir is fast turning into a virtual breeding ground for militants with many youths joining their rank and file or becoming their sympathisers.
Better intelligence network of terrorists, assistance of people to local terrorists, heavy turnouts at the funerals of militants and stone-pelting on security forces even during encounters has virtually become a routine affair in the region.
Comprising of four districts-- Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian-- South Kashmir has been on the boil ever since Chief Commander of banned Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) group Abu Qassim was gunned down in a fierce encounter in November last year.
Driving past the dusty roads of this area dotted with many tourist spots, one can see signs of slogans favouring 'independence', support to terror groups and glorification of militants killed in encounters with the security forces.
Senior security officials spoken to in this area are cautious of the new developments which include firings in air as a "salute to the killed terrorists", prominent militants attending the funeral of killed ultras, with the police and security forces remaining mere spectators.
Last year, out of the 90 youths, who had joined militant groups, 80 per cent of them hailed from various districts of South Kashmir alone.
While figures for this year were being collated, intelligence reports suggest that 17 youths from some villages of Kulgam, Pulwama and Tral areas had disappeared quietly and joined militant ranks.
The worst-hit areas in the area are Heff-Shrimal in Shopian district, Samboora, Lillahar, Pulwama town and Tral of Pulwama district, Qaimooh and Redhwani in Kulgam district and Redhwani in Anantnag district.
These are the areas which are dotted with apple orchards and lead to dense forests where militants are holed up, the officials said, adding that in case the army mounts pressure on one side, they escape and mingle with the local population on the other.
The intelligence network of the militant groups, which had ended in mid-1990's, is understood to have revived again and the terrorists come to know about the advancements of security forces, giving them an advantage to flee the area, the officials said.