'Ghaznavi' was a longest surviving militant

Had taken reigns of Hizbul Mujahideen after Burhan’s killing

Yasin Itoo, popularly known as Mehmood Ghaznavi, had taken the command of Hizbul Mujahideen after the death of the outfit’s divisional commander Burhan Muzafar Wani last year.

Hailing from Chadoora area of Budgam district, Yasin, 40, left his home for the first time in 1996 and crossed the Line of Control for arms training. That time, he was a second year graduate student.

A source said after his return, he was arrested. However, following his release, he completed his graduation and also started a private coaching centre. However, in 2002, he again joined Hizbul ranks but was arrested a year later.

In 2004, after his release from prison, he again joined militancy and rose on to become district commander of Hizbul for Budgam.

The source said he was arrested again in 2005 and later released in early 2015. Soon, he joined Tehreek-I-Hurriyat headed by Syed Ali Geelani. However after some time, he went missing and a Hizb statement declared him as “killed.” In a statement, Hizb chief Syed Salahuddin had said that Ghaznavi was killed when he fell from a mountain while being on “operational duties”. His funeral in-absentia was offered at his Nagam residence.

However, after the killing of Burhan Wani, Itoo, by then known by the name of Mehmood Ghaznavi appeared in south Kashmir and addressed massive public rallies in various areas during the public uprising. He also addressed a massive rally in Redwani village of Kulgam on August 14 last year. It was then that he again came on police radar.

Of late, many of his videos had gone viral on social networking sites. In a video released ahead of Burhan Wani’s anniversary, Ghaznavi had appealed to people to repose trust in political and militant leadership and be cautious against those challenging legal and historic nature of Kashmir conflict.

Earlier, there were reports that he had escaped from the gunfight site today and that the third slain militant was Adil Malik of Shopian. However, later both the families were called for identification and it turned out to be Ghaznavi. The two of his associates killed along with him were identified as Sheikh Irfan of Maldera-Zainapora Shopian and Umar Majid of Kathpora-Yaripora- Kulgam .

Irfan, a B.Tech in food technology joined militant ranks in January 2016 after completing his degree. Son of an affluent orchardist, Irfan, 22, was the second youngest among his seven siblings consisting of six sisters and a lone brother. His mother had passed away when he was only five.

His friends described him as an intelligent and a talented boy.  He was not a book worm at all but would always top the examinations, said one his childhood friends.

He said that Irfan was planning to pursue M.Tech.

Emotional scenes were witnessed as the body of Irfan reached his native village. People were seen walking on foot, riding motorbikes to have his last glimpse.  As the body was being taken towards his village, people at Nagbal stopped it and a huge funeral procession was seen there. Later, the body reached Maldera where five rounds of funeral prayers were offered. At least three militants turned up at the funeral and offered a gun salute to their fallen colleague, a witness said. Meanwhile, multiple funerals were also offered for Umar Majid in Kathpora village in Yaripora area of Kulgam district. Umar, a college 1st year student had joined militant ranks soon after the killing of Burhan Wani. Besides his parents, he is survived by a lone brother and four sisters.