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Top Hizbul terrorist Riyaz Naikoo was hiding in south Kashmir bunker; killed in overnight op

The 32-year-old Riyaz Naikoo, also known by his alias Zubair ul Islam and Bin Qasim, was counted among Kashmir’s most-experienced terrorists.

Updated: May 08, 2020 00:47 IST

By Shishir Gupta, Hindustan Times New Delhi

On 5 June, Riyaz Naikoo would have completed eight years in the Hizbul Mujahideen, a rarity in a career where many don’t last for more than a few years.

Riyaz Naikoo, the top Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist who had never been caught, has been gunned down by security forces in a joint operation in his south Kashmir’s village on Wednesday. Naikoo had come to meet his family on Tuesday and stayed overnight at a hideout in Awantipora’s Beighbora village. This was home turf.

The 32-year-old, also known by his alias Zubair ul Islam and Bin Qasim, was counted among Kashmir’s most-experienced terrorists. On 5 June, Riyaz Naikoo would have completed eight years in the Hizbul Mujahideen, a rarity in a career where many don’t last for more than a few years. Security forces had come close to cornering him on several occasions; he managed to dodge them every time.

WATCH | Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo eliminated: All the key details

But on Tuesday, Kashmir Police’s anti-militancy unit Special Operations Group (SOG) had pinpointed information about his movements. He was going to be in his village to meet his family and relatives. According to one account, the SOG had an idea where he would stay overnight.

Riyaz Naikoo, the calculative Hizbul terrorist

He was the chief operational commander of Hizbul Mujahideen in Jammu and Kashmir
Naikoo took command of Hizbul Mujahideen after Zakir Musa defected from Hizbul
Riyaz Naikoo used audio and video clips put out on social media to motivate youth to join terror
His audio and video messages articulated separatist ideology and praised Pakistan
J&K police says he was the brain behind revival of Hizbul in J&K
He is blamed for killing several police personnel and civilians
Naikoo funded terror by looting money from orchard owners and illicit cultivation of opium in south Kashmir
Hizbul Mujahideen has been found to be involved in narco trade in Jammu as well
Naikoo had taken credit for freeing Lashkar-e-Taiba’s Naveed Jutt from custody in 2018
Naveed Jutt was shot dead in November 2018, months after his escape

It was getting dark by the time a large contingent of Jammu and Kashmir police and the 21 Rashtriya Rifles started surrounding the village. “And then, they lay low, waiting for dawn to make the move,” a senior police officer said.



A gun battle erupted early on Wednesday.

He had been trapped and there was no way to escape.

When the firefight was over, security personnel found Riyaz Naikoo in a bunker from where he had been firing at them. He and his associate had died of gunshot wounds.

“It is a major success for the security forces in Kashmir,” a senior Jammu and Kashmir Police officer told Hindustan Times. J&K police chief Dilbag Singh had been monitoring the entire operation that the police insisted could break the back of the Hizbul Mujahideen in south Kashmir.

In the records of Jammu and Kashmir police, Riyaz Naikoo was listed as “A++” terrorist who had a reward of Rs 1.2 million on his head. According to his dossier, he had studied till class 10 at the Beighpora government high school, cleared his Class 12 from the higher secondary school in Gulzarpora and graduation from the government degree college in Pulwama.

“It is a major success for the security forces in Kashmir,” a senior Jammu and Kashmir Police officer

He took up a private teacher’s job in Hanfia Model Public School a couple of kilometres away in 2010. It is around this time that he first started helping out the Hizbul before going missing on 5 June 2012 to join the Hizbul at the instance of Sajad Mir, who was later killed.

Over the next four years, he climbed the Hizbul hierarchy and came to the attention of the Hizbul boss in Pakistan Syed Salahuddin. After Zakir Musa took over the Hizbul in Kashmir following the killing of Burhan Wani and had differences with its leadership in Pakistan, Riyaz Naikoo stayed on Syed Salahuddin’s right side and became the de facto chief of Hizbul in Kashmir.

The Hizbul mostly operates in south Kashmir districts of Kulgam, Shopian and Anantnag and Pulwama. This part of Kashmir has traditionally been seen as the hotbed of homegrown terror fuelled from across the Line of Control.

A Jammu and Kashmir police statement later said Naikoo was involved in the killing of a panchayat sarpanch’s father Haji Ghulam Mohd Dar in Dogripora in March 2014, firing on a police bus near Bhatpora Tokena, killing of Ghulam Mohi-Ud-din Dar, murder of Javaid Akbar Khanday of Khandaypora, the murder of head constable Ashiq Hussain Mir at Padgampoara crossing, abduction of constable Naseer Ahmad, lootiing 9 firearms from residence of ex-MLA Wachi, kiiling of six migrant labour in Kulgam,killing of truck drivers and fruit traders post Aug 5 and threatening jail staffers who had stopped the practice of giving preferential treatment to terrorists in jail.

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