Hizbul Mujahideen leader Riyaz Naikoo killed in encounter in J&K2 min read . Updated: 06 May 2020, 10:51 PM IST
- Security forces cornered Riyaz Naikoo by conducting a cordon and search operation in Beighpora village, based on a tip-off
- Naikoo had been categorized as an A++ militant in the security forces’ list of top militant commanders
NEW DELHI : Security forces in Jammu and Kashmir dealt a major blow to the Hizbul Mujahideen on Wednesday by killing the terrorist outfit’s Kashmir chief, Riyaz Naikoo, in Pulwama district of south Kashmir.
The success of the security forces comes against the backdrop of a surge in encounters and strikes by terrorists in the Valley in the past two months.
Naikoo’s death has further weakened the Hizbul Mujahideen, which was crippled after Burhan Wani was shot dead in 2016 by security forces in Pulwama.
A joint team of the Rashtriya Rifles, the Jammu and Kashmir police’s Special Operations Group and the Central Reserve Police Force launched a massive cordon and search operation in Pulwama district’s Awantipora late on Tuesday evening following a tip-off about Naikoo’s presence in his native Beighpora village. The forces sealed all entry and exit points to the village when they launched their operation. Shots were fired at the security forces as they closed in on Naikoo. The terrorist leader and another terrorist who was holed up with him were killed in the ensuing gunbattle.
In another encounter, two unidentified terrorists were gunned down by security forces at Sharshali village in Pulwama’s Khrew area.
Naikoo, 33, came to prominence soon after Burhan Wani was killed and carried a reward of ₹12 lakh on his head.
“Naikoo has promoted Pakistani propaganda and is a supporter of Pakistan in the Valley. He was involved in several murder cases, including the killing of police personnel. The terrorist leader has released several videos and audios threatening informers and local police personnel to stay away from militancy operations. Naikoo is reported to have massive support of over-ground workers (OGWs)," said a security force dossier, which was reviewed by Mint.
A resident of Naikoo Mohalla in Awantipora, Riyaz Naikoo rose through the Hizbul ranks to become one of the “most-wanted" militants in the Valley after joining the outfit in 2012. With Wani’s elimination, Naikoo emerged as the outfit’s “moderate" leader, taking over as the chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen in Kashmir, after his associate, Sabzar Bhat, was killed in May 2017.
The tech-savvy commander held much sway among the youth and also managed to galvanize support through radicalisation drives over social networking sites. The search for Naikoo was on since 2017, but the terrorist evaded capture every time. Intelligence officials and security forces in the Valley, however, believe that the victory of the forces is only temporary.
“Naikoo’s elimination is a minor blip in the Hizbul radar. Each outfit has the next commander groomed and ready to take over because they know that the current commander can be killed anytime. Like Burhan Wani, Naikoo’s elimination will only hurt the outfit till the next commander has gained prominence over the next weeks," said a senior intelligence official from Kashmir, requesting anonymity.