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Hizbul chief Riyaz Naikoo, associate killed in J-K encounter; 2 others neutralised in separate op

Naikoo, who carried a reward of Rs 12 lakh on his head, took over as the commander of Hizbul Mujahideen after the outfit’s poster boy and commander Burhan Wani was killed in a gunfight with the security forces in Kokarnag area in Anantnag district on July 8, 2016.

SNS | New Delhi |

Hizbul commander and one of Kashmir’s most wanted terrorist Riyaz Naikoo was neutralised on Wednesday after being trapped in the Beighpora area of Awantipora in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district in an encounter that had been continued since Tuesday night.

Along with Naikoo, one other terrorist was also killed in the third operation launched by Awantipora Police since Tuesday night on specific inputs received.

Joint troops recovered the bodies of the two terrorists following which their identities were ascertained. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) informed that the search is still underway amid stone-pelting.

Earlier in the day, the Jammu and Kashmir Police had informed that a contact had been established in Beighpora area of Awantipora and a top terrorist commander has been trapped.

Meanwhile, in another encounter, two terrorists were eliminated by the security forces at Sharshali Khrew area of Awantipora. This was a separate operation launched by Awantipur district police along with SFs at Sarshali Khrew, last night.

Heavy firing exchanges have been going on in the area since Tuesday evening when a massive search operation was launched by the security forces.

Meanwhile, soon after the encounters started, mobile internet services were suspended in Kashmir valley as a precautionary measure.

Riyaz Naikoo took over as the commander of Hizbul Mujahideen after the outfit’s poster boy and commander Burhan Wani was killed in a gunfight with the security forces in Kokarnag area in Anantnag district on July 8, 2016.

Naikoo reportedly carried a reward of Rs 12 lakh on his head.

Sources quoted by IANS had earlier stated that after receiving credible information that the top Hizbul Mujahideen commander had come to visit his home in Beighpora village the joint op by the Rashtriya Rifles (RR), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the local police, moved in quickly to seal all entry and exit points of the village.

The operation was launched at 11 pm on Tuesday. The targets were located at 12.15 am Wednesday and pinned to a cluster of 15 houses, from where an automatic rifle was recovered.

Indian Army Spokesperson, Colonel Aman Anand, updating on the encounters, told reporters that two terrorists have been killed by security forces in an operation in Pulwama’s Beighpora taking the tally to four in 24 hours. Weapons have been recovered from the encounter site, he said, but refused to release the names of the militants.

Before joining the militant ranks, Naikoo worked as a mathematics teacher at a local school. He was known to have passion for painting roses before he picked up the gun at the age of 33.

Security forces hold Riyaz Naikoo responsible for holding the Hizbul together after its possible disintegration when Zakir Musa broke away from the Hizbul ranks to form his own splinter group.

Musa split from the Hizbul in 2017 and formed his own group called Ansar Ghazwatul Hind that claimed to be the Indian affiliate of the Al-Qaeda. Musa was killed in Dadsara area in Tral tehsil in an encounter with the security forces on May 23, 2019.

There has been a sudden spike in encounters as reports of infiltration have been reported from the border in the past few weeks.

On Sunday two senior Army officers – a colonel and a major – were among five security personnel killed in action during an encounter in J&K’s Kupwara district. A sub-inspector and two soldiers also lost their lives.

Three CRPF men were among the four persons killed after terrorists attacked a CRPF party at Handwara in north Kashmir on Monday.