Trenches, Roadblocks: How Hizbul Chief Naikoo Was Cornered, Killed

A senior police official said Naikoo had probably come to visit his mother in his native village in J&K’s Pulwama.

Updated
India
3 min read
A senior police official said Naikoo had probably come to visit his mother in his native village in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama.
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The operation to nab top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo began late on Tuesday, 5 May, when security forces laid siege in his native village Beighpora, in south Kashmir.

Although Naikoo, the “operational chief” and brain behind Hizbul’s operations in Kashmir, had managed to give a slip to forces on several occasions in the past, this time his luck ran out.

“We had to dig trenches on several roads in and around the area and create roadblocks to prevent the people from either assembling near the house, where he was cornered, or mass mobilisation from adjoining areas.”
A senior police official told The Quint
The house where Riyaz Naikoo was killed.
The house where Riyaz Naikoo was killed.
(Photo: Acquired by The Quint)

A source said that Naikoo’s mother was recently discharged from a Srinagar hospital, where she was treated for an unspecified illness.

“Since then, the vigil around the village was intensified. He had probably come to pay a visit at his home and that blew his veil of secrecy,” said the source. However, police officials who spoke with The Quint didn’t officially confirm the lead that led to his killing.

Police sources said he was cornered, along with another militant, in a single-storied house and got killed during the exchange of fire.

From a Teacher to a Terrorist: A Look at Naikoo’s History

An ‘A++ category’ terrorist with a Rs 12 lakh reward, Naikoo joined militancy in 2012 after dropping out of a postgraduate degree course in Physics.

He was first arrested and booked under the draconian Public Safety Act during a protest in 2010 against the killing of a teenager from Srinagar, Tufail Ahamad Mattoo, due to a teargas shell fired by policeman to quell protests.

In the years running up to his plunge in the dreaded world of Kashmir insurgency, Naikoo was known as ‘master’, for he taught Mathematics at a private school near his native village.

He took reigns of Hizb after the outfits then operational commander Yasin Itoo was killed in 2017, who had succeeded the young militant commander Burhan Wani.

Tech-savvy and known for keeping a low profile, that helped him survive eight years in Kashmir insurgency – where the average age of a militant is barely few months – Naikoo revived the phenomenon of gun salute for fallen militants by their comrades in Kashmir.

“He was extremely sharp and used the tactics of guerrilla warfare optimally to survive, despite a robust intelligence network in Kashmir. In the end, he may have had to pay a heavy price for his own mistake,” sources said.

A senior police officer, on condition of anonymity, told The Quint that Naikoo single-handedly managed to ride over the ideological differences with different militants and their outfits with his “calm demeanour”.

“He played a major role in preventing the infighting among militant groups in Kashmir, especially following the split of Musa from Hizbul, while keeping the militants focussed on their job.”
Senior police officer told The Quint

“He was the last of the top terrorist commanders in Kashmir and his death has effectively wiped out Hizbul from south Kashmir,” the officer added.

‘Good Student’: Naikoo’s Father in Interview

In a recent interview to HuffPost, Naikoo’s father Asadullah Mir, said that his son was a good student who was “traumatised” to see his friends being “hauled off to torture centres.”

“He wanted to become an engineer. He was good at Mathematics but ended up with a gun in his hand. I only saw him on the internet since he disappeared,” Mir had said.

Despite a massive military presence in Kashmir, to stop the movement of people amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, authorities on Wednesday cancelled all the movement passes issued to employees and others.

Low speed mobile internet has been suspended and even mobile phone calling has been barred, except on state-run BSNL. “We are monitoring the situation closely. Vigil has been stepped up to prevent any law and order problem. The curbs on communication networks will be lifted in the next couple of days or so,” the police officer said.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the officer said that the body of Naikoo and his associate will not be handed over to their families and they are likely to be buried in a graveyard in north Kashmir, that is reserved for foreign and unidentified militants.

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