SRINAGAR:A top Hizbul Mujahideen commander and son of a senior separatist leader was among the two militants killed in an overnight gunfight in Srinagar. Junaid Sehrai,29,was killed along with an associate in Old city’s Nawakdal neighbourhood.
Junaid is the second top Hizb commander to be gunned down after its operational Chief Riyaz Naikoo was killed in south Kashmir in the first week of May. Junaid, police say, was looking after the militant outfits operations for central Kashmir.
“In last night’s operation two terrorists were killed. They have been identified as Junaid Ashraf Khan (Junaid Sehrai) from Srinagar and Tariq Ahamd Sheikh from Pulwama,” Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbagh Singh said. “Junaid was Divisional commander of Hizbul Mujahideen and was looking after central Kashmir area. He was wanted in multiple cases,” he added.
Junaid Sehrai alias Zafar-ul-Islam was recently appointed deputy chief commander of Hizb-ul Mujahideen in Jammu and Kashmir after chief Riyaz Naikoo was killed in Pulwama on May 6. Sehrai was deputy to the new chief in Kashmir Valley, Dr Saifullah.
This is the first gunfight in Srinagar since October 2018 when two Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militants, including a commander Mehraj-ud-din Bangroo, and a civilian were killed.
Junaid, a resident of Baghat Barzulla in Srinagar joined militant ranks on March 23, two years ago. He was the son of senior separatist leader and Chief of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai. He was one of the last listed militants from the Srinagar district.
The operation to track down Junaid was launched on Monday night jointly by J-K Police and paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) when they cordoned off the Nawakadal neighbourhood of old Srinagar city after inputs about his presence. As the joint team zeroed in on towards the target house, militant opened fire. After a brief exchange of fire there was silence from both sides.
However, on Tuesday morning during the search operation militants again opened fire leading to a gunfight. In initial bursts of fire, a policeman and a paramilitary personnel were injured. Police and paramilitary forces later fired shells and blasted the house, where militants had taken shelter resulting in death of two militants.
IGP Kashmir Vijay Kumar said, “It(today’s operation) is a big success for J&K Police and CRPF specially in city grid and both are working together with optimum synergy on the ground and would keep doing outstanding works in the future too.”
With Junaid’s killing, all top six commanders of terror organisations in the Valley have been eliminated by security forces.
Junaid Sehrai’s journey in Hizb-ul terror ranks began in March 2018. Days after his father Muhammad Ashraf Sehrai replaced Syed Ali Shah Geelani as chairman of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chief, Junaid went missing after Friday prayers.
Junaid Ashraf Khan had left home for prayers near his house in Baghat locality, but soon his photos started to appear on social media brandishing a gun, announcing to world he has joined terror organisation Hizbul Mujahideen.
Junaid’s elder brother Khalid, who reportedly works in Saudi Arabia, lodged a missing persons complaint with Sadder Police Station in Srinagar in March, 2018.
The family, however, made no overtures or appeals for Junaid (then a 26-year-old) to return back home. Even security forces made efforts to ensure that Junaid returns to the main fold, but it did not happen.
Sources said the family will not be given Junaid’s body as per the new SOP of security forces. Both bodies will be buried in Sheeri in Baramulla.