SRINAGAR:After the killing of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief Riyaz Naikoo last week, security agencies in Kashmir had identified the top 10 terrorists operating in the Valley. Junaid Sehrai,who was killed today,was second in the list.
The list includes the militants from the Hizbul, Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed ( JeM).
The Army has released a list of its top ten targets which includes 26-year-old Saifullah Mir aka Ghazi Haider, who was nominated as new chief by the Hizbul last week. Mir, who also goes by ‘Doctor Saif’ code name because he treated injured militants,was recruited by Naikoo in 2014 and came on the radar of security agencies in 2017.
The second militant in the list was 29-year-old Junaid Sehrai, son of Ashraf Sehrai, chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat and successor of hardline Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani. Junaid, an MBA pass-out from Kashmir University, joined Hizbul in March 2018.
The other militants in the list include Mohammad Ashraf Khan aka Ashraf Molvi who joined militancy in September 2016, Mohammad Abbas Sheikh aka Turabi Molvi, active since March 2015 both affiliated with the Hizbul, Zahid alias Omar Afghani, who joined the Jaish in late 2014.
Besides these, Faisal Bhai, a Jaish militant active since 2015, Sheraz Lone aka Molvi, Saleem Paray, Owais Mullick and Shakoor, all affiliated with the LeT are the other militants in the top ten list.
Terrorists are listed under different categories – from A++ (being the highest) to A+, A and B. An A++ category terrorist is first on the hit list of security forces.
Security forces have already eliminated 64 militants this year in 27 anti-insurgency operations while 125 over ground workers of militants were arrested.Last year 152 militants were killed in J&K against over 250 in 2018.
But what is keeping the security establishment worried is a large number of battle-hardened Pakistani militants, who may have infiltrated into Kashmir since the beginning of April. However, recruitment of locals into the militancy has dwindled since last year and according to police, the killing of Naikoo will further dent the morale of ultras in the Valley as he was the brain behind the recruitment of local boys into the militancy in the last three years.
Saifullah Mir aka Ghazi Haider, the 26-year-old who was radicalised to join the Hizbul Mujahideen by Riyaz Naikoo six years ago, is the Hizbul Mujahideen’s new face of terror in Jammu and Kashmir. The official said Saifullah Mir’s appointment to lead the Hizbul in Jammu and Kashmir had been announced by Saleem Hashmi, the spokesperson for the terror group headquartered in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir’s Muzaffarabad.
Hashmi also named Zafarul Islam as the so-called deputy chief operational commander in jammu and Kashmir and another terrorist, Abu Tariq Bhai, as his chief military adviser.
Naikoo along with his associate Adil Ahmed was killed in an operation carried out by Jammu and Kashmir police and troopers from the 21 Rashtriya Rifles. Naikoo was hiding in a secret bunker in his village.
Saifullah Mir, who is also known as Musaib and ‘Doctor Saif’ because he treated terrorists injured in police encounters, is a class 12 pass out from Malangpora in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district unlike his mentor and predecessor Riyaz Naikoo who had completed his graduation. Saifullah Mir opted for vocational training after school.
Once he was through with the bio medical course at the government-run ITI in Pulwama, Saifullah got himself a job at Srinagar’s National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology as a technician, according to security officials.
He held onto the job for three years before Riyaz Naikoo finally had his way and motivated him to join terror.
Security officials said Saifullah had been classified as an ‘A category’ terrorist and had mostly been active in south Kashmir districts of Pulwama, Kulgam and Shopian. He is also said to be completely familiar with Riyaz Naikoo’s network and activities to raise funds by looting orchard owners and get cuts from illicit cultivation of opium in south Kashmir.
Police officers in Kashmir said apart from terrorism, the Hizbul Mujahideen has also been involved in narco trade.
Investigators had recently busted a Hizbul Mujahideen terror funding module with the arrest of Hilal Ahmad Wagay, a resident of Nowgam, Awantipora, Jammu and Kashmir. Wagay was caught with Rs 29 lakh cash in Amritsar, by Punjab Police on April 25.
“This money was being transported to the Kashmir valley to be handed over to Riyaz Naikoo (now killed), Chief operational commander of Hizbul Mujahideen. This case has been taken over by NIA,” the National Investigation Agency had said.