LeT pays tribute; Thousands join funeral prayers; Police say slain militants were close aides of Naikoo
A top Hizbul Mujahideen commander who never appeared on social media but was active for the last four years was killed along with his associate in a brief encounter with government forces in Shaar Shali area of Pampore on Thursday.
A senior police official told Greater Kashmir that the gunfight began after forces comprising the Jammu and Kashmir police, army’s Rashtriya Rifles and Central Reserve Police Force launched a joint operation in Shaar Shali during pre-dawn hours following “specific inputs” about presence of militants there.
“During the search operation, the militants in a particular house fired on the forces. The fire was retaliated, triggering a gunfight in which two militants were killed. Arms and ammunition were retrieved from the encounter site,” he said.
Additional director general of police (law and order/security) Munir Khan told Greater Kashmir that it was “another clean and swift operation” in which “no collateral damage” took place.
The slain militants were identified as district commander Adnan Ahmad Lone alias Uqaab of Braw Bandina area in Awantipora, and Adil Bilal Bhat alias Umair Al Hizbi of Malangpora area in Pulwama. Adil became active in 2017 while Adnan was active since January 2015.
Superintendent of police Awantipora Muhammad Zahid Malik claimed that both the killed militants “were the right hand and the left hand” of Hizb’s operational commander Riyaz Naikoo.
“Adil Dar was involved in the killing of head constable Ashiq Hussain at Padgampora, Awantipora, last year,” Malik said.
Unlike other militants who are habitual of uploading photos and videos on social media, Adnan never did it.
“Everyone, including his family, was clueless about his whereabouts because he did not expose his plunge into militancy on social media. It was a letter, handed over by someone to a child outside his house in Braw Bandina, that confirmed Adnan’s entry into militancy,” said a local resident.
“He never posed on social media and could not gain much popularity. But for us, he was one of the most-wanted militants in Hizb cadres. He was pushing more young boys towards militancy, particularly in district Pulwama,” said a senior police official posted in southern Kashmir.
Known as a close associate of Hizb commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani who was killed in 2016, Adnan was, however, missing in a group photograph that went viral on social media in June 2015. The photograph, captured in an orchard, saw 11 young militants posing boldly without any masks.
Adnan came from a well-qualified family.
One of his neighbours said Adnan’s elder brother holds a doctorate in Botany from the Aligarh Muslim University while his second brother holds M.Tech degree from the same varsity. His younger brother has completed MBBS, MD from government medical college Jammu, and his sister is working as a teacher.
“He (Adnan) came from a simple family. He was a very intelligent student who, despite not having much interest in studies, completed B.Tech from government college of engineering and technology, Jammu,” said Mubashir Ahmad, a local resident.
Adil Bhat (24), on the other hand, had joined militancy last year. He was known as a “cordon breaker” and gave slip to forces many times during different operations.
Adil is survived by his parents, a brother and a sister. His father is working as a driver in the Jammu and Kashmir police.
The killing of two Hizb militants comes a day after top commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) Naveed Jatt was killed along with his associate in a gunfight at Chatergam area of Budgam district.
As per official figures, 26 militants were killed in Kashmir in the past one week, including some top commanders, of Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashker-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Muhammad and Ansar Ghazwat Ul Hind outfits
As the news about militant killings spread, massive protest demonstrations erupted in parts of Pulwama district, including Awantipora and Malangpora. Shops and business establishments were closed while public and private transport remained off the roads.
As per past practice, authorities suspended the mobile internet service in the area soon after the gunfight broke out.
Tens of thousands turned up at the funerals of both the militants in their native villages.
At least seven back-to-back rounds of funeral prayers were held for Adnan at Braw Bandina, while five rounds of funeral prayers were held for Adil at Malangpora, to accommodate the huge rush of mourners.
Scores of mourners from Tral, Awantipora, Pampore, Bijbehara and Pulwama started arriving in Braw Bandina and Malangpora to have the last glimpse of the two militants.
Both bodies were later taken to local ancestral graveyards where thousands of people participated in their last rites.
A large number of people assembled outside the house of Adil Bhat and chanted pro-freedom and pro-Pakistani slogans. Dozens of women showered rose petals and candies on the bodies from rooftops and windows of their homes.
Amid sobs and cries, both the militants were laid to rest, but only after their family members, friends and relatives kissed them for the last time.
LASHKAR PAYS TRIBUTE
In a statement, the chief of Lashkar-e-Toiba Mahmood Shah paid tribute to Hizb-ul-Mujahideen militants killed in Pampore.
“The pace with which indigenous freedom struggle of Kashmir is continued (sic) and Indian forces are using their last of resources and tactics, all such efforts are evident to the fact (sic) that the defeat of India is not far,” Shah said, according to the statement. “Youth are competing against guns with stones and still Indian forces are biting the dust.”
Reacting to a statement by army chief, general Bipin Rawat, about drone attacks in Kashmir, Shah said that “such statements are proportional to confessing the defeat of Indian forces who have suffered disgrace and are resorting to using drones against stone-pelters”.
“Threatening us with death is a fool’s act,” Shah said, according to the statement, adding that “India has no tendency to use drones against us because they know that they will never be able to bear the consequences. The battlefield is equal for its competitors”.
Shah strongly condemned “shelling and firing by forces on funeral procession of Meraj Ahmed (in Sopore)”
“This is an ultimate act of cowardice. The international human rights organisations must take notice of India’s atrocities and severe human rights violations,” Shah said in the statement.