Bahmnoo encounter: Police kills two militants; 10 more Hizbul Mujahideen militants join Zakir Musa group

Srinagar: Ten more militants have broken away from the militant outfit Hizbul Mujahideen and joined hands with its former commander Zakir Musa, top police officials said on Monday. The information came after police officials gunned down two militants in a gunfight at the Bahmnoo area in Pulwama on Monday.

"Two militants have been killed. The other militant is being engaged by the forces. We have the inputs that all the three militants are from Hizbul Mujahideen," Muneer Ahmad Khan, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir range, told Firstpost.

File image of former Hizbul Mujahideen commander Zakir Musa.  News18

File image of former Hizbul Mujahideen commander Zakir Musa. News18

The encounter, which started at 8 am is still undergoing with a third militant, who is believed to be from the Rajouri area of Jammu, is still holed up inside a house, police sources said. The security forces were acting on a specific tip-off about the presence of militants.

According to police officials, Musa, who earlier praised Al-Qaeda, is commanding a group of at least 10 militants who were associated with him while he was commanding a section of Hizbul Mujahideen militants. Musa had disassociated himself with the outfit in May in order to establish an Islamic caliphate in Kashmir.

Musa, however, is trying to draw more militants to his group, a police official told Firstpost.

The militants, who were killed earlier on Monday, were earlier believed to be part of the splinter group led by Musa, thus raising alarms over the increasing number of militants in Musa's group.
However, police officials later confirmed that the militants were associated with Hizbul Mujahideen, and were not part of the Musa-led breakway group.

Musa's rising numbers a concern

Security officials see local militant commanders like Musa "capable of running" forming independent militant outfit as a more dangerous trend as local youth resort to weapon snatching and go for training in the forest areas of South Kashmir.

According to sources at Jammu and Kashmir Police more youth are joining militancy, and that poses a challenge for the Indian armed forces in the region.

Musa had openly stated his intention to establish an Islamic caliphate in Kashmir in a video message released on 15 May. While announcing his disassociation with Hizbul Mujahideen, Musa, in the video, had owed support to Al-Qaeda and had thanked the global militant organisation for their support to Islamic rule. The police has not been able to track Musa's movement nearly one and half month after his disassociation with Hizbul Mujahideen.

"Musa is praising Al-Qaeda. He wants the creation of a radical Islamic state in Kashmir. But as of now he is operating independently. He has managed to breakaway some 10 other militants from Hizbul Mujahideen, who are mostly from Tral," said a senior police official.

Officials said that Tral remains the hotbed of militants and the local forest range provides a cover for the militants to get the training.

Musa as well as two previous commanders of the Hizbul Mujahideen — Burhan Muzafar Wani and the Sabzar Ahmad Bhat — are also from Tral area. Both Burhan and Sabzar were killed in separate encounters with the forces.

The killing of Wani had triggered widespread protests across Kashmir with people observing shutdown for over six months following the killing of more than 75 civilians in clashes with the forces.
Though Musa has not released any video since May, a police official told Firstpost that Musa is trying to rope in more youth into the militancy relying on his appeal. "Wani had also drawn a number of (Kashmiri) youth into the Hizbul Mujahideen ranks due to his frequent presence on social networking sites," the official said.

Encounter in progress

The Monday's encounter started around 8 am is still going on with two militants being neutralised and a third one still holed up inside a house.

One of the slain militants was identified as Kifayat Ahmad Khanday, son of Mohammad Ahsan Khanday of Bahmnoo. He had joined militant ranks on 20 April this year.

"Kifayat has been a Class V drop out and was one of the most recent entrants in Hizbul Mujahideent," said a security official.

The other militant, who was killed on Monday, was identified as Jehangir Ahmad Khanday, son of Rustam Khanday of Kellar. The 23-years-old militant was associated with Hizbul Mujahideen for over 11 months. Jehnagir was working at an automobile workshop and joined militant ranks after passing Class XII exam. Earlier, he was also associated with Musa.

People protested against the killing of militants at that both Bamnoo as well as Kellar, police officials said. The security deployment was intensified in Bamnoo as well as Kellar after the clashes between the civilians and the forces.

Updated Date: Jul 03, 2017 17:58 PM

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