After Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, Kashmir police sees tech-savvy Riyaz Naikoo as new face of Hizbul Mujahideen

Following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander, Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, police officials in Kashmir see another militant and tech-savvy Riyaz Ahmad Naikoo replacing Sabzar as the new commander in Kashmir.

Top police sources said that Naikoo is the one of the oldest surviving militants and could be new commander after Sabzar. They said that the Hizbul Mujahideen could prefer Naikoo over the two other oldest surviving militants — Altaf Kachroo and Saddam Padder — as the outfit may bank on him to use the social networking sites to galvanise support for militancy in Kashmir.

Police officials said that Kachroo was also active for over three years and was arrested earlier before he joined militancy. After his release in 2014 following his detention under the public safety (PSA) he got "recycled" into militancy. "Altaf Kachroo was responsible for many of the attacks on forces," said a senior security official. He is one of the most active militants in South Kashmir and has been responsible for many youth joining the militancy. Sources also added that Saddam Padder, who is nearly 25 years old, had been a close associate of Burhan Wani. He remains active in Shopian area of South Kashmir and had joined militancy after finishing studies up to Class VIII. "Padder’s family is into farming and belong to a low income group," said an official.

 After Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, Kashmir police sees tech-savvy Riyaz Naikoo as new face of Hizbul Mujahideen

File image of Riyaz Naik. Youtube

According to sources, Naikoo is a top rated militant and Hizbul Mujahideen could be banking on him as he has remained active for over three years and had even completed his higher studies. Naikoo, who is from Durbug, Awantipora, has been giving the forces a tough time and they have been looking for him for a long time. Hizbul Mujahihdeen could prefer Naikoo over both Altaf Kachroo, a resident of Kulgam and Saddam Padder of Heff, Shopian, as he was much literate than both of them. Both Kachroo and Padder have not studied beyond Class X. "Out of the 20 militants, Naikoo is one of the oldest surviving militants," Superintendent of Police, Awantipora, Mohammad Zaid, said and added that he was involved in killing of many of the security force personnel. Naikoo had featured in many of the photos and videos along with Wani.

Naikoo has been placed in the A++ category and carries a bounty of over Rs 12 lakh on his head, said a top police official. "The appeal for militancy among the youth has only increased as the militants have been releasing videos and remaining active on the social networking sites," said an official.

Director General of Police, SP Vaid said, "Elimination of the top commanders of the militants remains a priority...We had been after Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander Sabzar for a long time." Sabzar was the successor of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander, Wani, after Zakir Musa recently left the militant outfit and is likely to float a new militant group. Top police sources said that the Zakir could either join Tehreekul Mujahideen (TeM) or form a new militant outfit. In a recent video that was released by Musa, he has dissociated from Hizbul Mujahideen after its chief commander, Syed Salahudin, distanced from his statement threatening to chop off the heads of Hurriyat leaders. In the video, Zakir Musa, said that he was floating a new outfit. But police sources said that Musa could be drawing in more people and could float a new name for the outfit or join TeM.

Senior security officials said that Sabzar had earlier given the forces a slip from the cordon, but they added that they were trying to gather intelligence inputs about his locations before he was killed in the joint encounter of army, police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) in the volatile area of Tral in South Kashmir. Sabzar had been living few kilometres away from the house of Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander, Burhan Wani, and had joined militancy due his association with him. He had snatched the weapon of a security force personnel, before he was taken by Wani in the Hizbul Mujahideen ranks.

Updated Date: May 28, 2017 09:11:39 IST