Dr Saifullah of Wani gang may head Hizb now

SRINAGAR: As many as 27 operations were launched against terrorists in the Kashmir Valley with 64 of them being eliminated, including Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo, inspector general of J&K police (Kashmir range) Vijay Kumar said on Thursday.

The security forces worked in complete synergy with J&K police and 25 terrorists were also arrested, Kumar said. “Police were searching for slain Hizb-ul-Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo for the past six months and ultimately we succeeded in tracing him,” he told reporters in Pulwama during his visit to the district after Naikoo’s killing.

Referring to violent protests by some people, seen as Hizb sympathisers, he said, “After Wednesday’s encounter, there was a law and order situation at the encounter site in Beighpora. A few people were injured and some of them sustained bullet injuries.”

Naikoo’s death has left a serious void at the top for HuM and possible successors being considered are “Dr Saifullah” or Abu Musaid, a resident of Malangpora in Pulwama, who was part of the Burhan Wani group of 12 terrorists, and Juniad Sehrai, chief of the Hurriyat’s Geelani faction who joined the terror group in 2018. Sehrai is seen as a prospect due to his connection with separatists through his staunch Jamiat-e-Islami ideologue father Ashraf Sehrai.

However, according to intelligence sources, Saifullah, a most wanted terrorist, could be the new face of the HuM in the Kashmir Valley. He is listed as a top terrorist in the ‘A++” category. A medical assistant in the past, he made a name for himself treating terrorists wounded in encounters with the security forces, sources said.

IGP Kumar said restrictions on movement and internet and phones other than BSNL were necessary to maintain law and order and would be reviewed if the situation improved. He said Naikoo’s killing was a big success for the J&K police after security forces killed Al Qaeda-linked Ansar Ghazwatul Hind (AGH) chief Burhan Koka, along with two more terrorists in Shopian district on April 29.

Saifullah began as a guide for terrorists in Pulwama, Tral, Kakapora and Kulgam areas. He has been active in Srinagar city as well, just like Sehrai, intelligence sources said. Sehrai occasionally visits his father’s house in Majid Bagh in Bhagat Barzulla in Srinagar and even motivates young boys in the area to join the Hizb.

Kumar said three top terrorist commanders were killed since January, including Jaish-e-Muhammad’s Qari Yasir, Burhan Koka and Naikoo.

The IGP said Naikoo was a very influential militant commander, who would release videos almost every month to lure the youth and to pass directions to his cadre to execute civilians and policemen.

The Resistance Front (TRF), the IGP said, was not a new outfit but a “shadow of Lashkar”. It was set up in August last year following international pressure on Pakistan to stop militancy.

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