In a massive success for India’s security forces, Kashmir’s most wanted terrorist Riyaz Naikoo, operational commander of terror group Hizb ul Mujahideen, was killed in an operation Wednesday in the Valley’s Pulwama district.
Sources in the security establishment confirmed Naikoo’s killing. The encounter came nearly two days after the forces launched a cordon and search operation Monday in Beighpora, the Pulwama village which Naikoo belonged to, based on credible inputs.
Riyaz Naikoo, an A++ category (highest among four) terrorist carrying a Rs-12 lakh bounty on his head, topped the Ministry of Home Affairs’ list of most wanted terrorists in Kashmir last year. He had also figured in a hit list prepared by the security forces in 2018.
He took over as Hizb chief in 2017 after Zakir Musa, the successor to the group’s commander Burhan Wani, left to form his own terror group Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, which is affiliated with Al-Qaeda.
On Monday, multiple teams from the Army, the Central Reserve Police Force and the Jammu and Kashmir Police surrounded Beighpora. Following the launch of the operation, fields around Naikoo’s house and a railway track were dug up over inputs about the possibility of tunnels or an underground hideout, said the sources.
The encounter began early Wednesday after the security forces were fired upon while conducting a house-to-house search.
A top security official said, “Riyaz Naikoo has been the most wanted terrorist in Kashmir and had escaped from multiple operations earlier.”
In January this year, Kashmir Inspector General of Police Vijay Kumar had said, “If we are able to kill Riyaz Naikoo, Hizb would almost be wiped out from South Kashmir.”
Riyaz Naikoo is also believed to be behind the revival of the “Gun Salute” that terrorists give to their fallen comrades at their funeral.
Security officials also believe Naikoo has managed to draft many young people from south Kashmir into militancy due to his image.