When a Mumbai court last week sent a terror accused to a juvenile remand home, it underlined a disturbing trend for security agencies: that of outfits such as the Islamic State targeting the young.

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The lawyers of the accused, Imran (not his real name), claimed he was 16 - making him perhaps the youngest in the country to be arrested for terror links. A resident of Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh, the accused is a Class XII student.

 He was arrested by Mumbai's ATS and UP Police on January 24.

Imran's lawyer produced his Class X marksheet, which said he was born in May 1999, in the additional metropolitan magistrate's court in Sewri. But the investigating agencies produced electoral records of Kushinagar showing him to be 20 years old.

Agencies have identified Imran as an IS recruiter.

According to the Maharashtra ATS, he was instrumental in securing safe houses and hideouts used to train jihadis. He allegedly rented properties in Mumbai and Goa with the money he got from hawala channels.

Worryingly, half a dozen of the 14 men rounded up by NIA in a nationwide crackdown against IS sympathisers on the eve of R-Day are aged less than 24. These include Mohammad Aleem (20) from Lucknow and Asif Ali (23) and Suhail Ahmed (23) from Bengaluru.

"Most of the young suspects rounded up were connected to outfits such as the IS and its subsidiaries through social media," said a senior officer of the UP ATS. "The terror outfits are perhaps targeting the young since they can be easily radicalised."

Retired IPS officer and UP ex-DGP Prakash Singh said youths are easy to tap. "With easy access to all sorts of platforms through social media, the young fall easy prey to propaganda by IS, which is using social media in a big way."



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