Mehmood Ghaznavi will be the Hizbul Mujahideen’s new commander in Kashmir, the militant group announced on Tuesday.
Ghaznavi will succeed Burhan Wani, whose death in an encounter last week triggered a wave of violent protests in Jammu and Kashmir. At least 32 people have died so far and more than 1,300 have been injured.
Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin held a meeting of the group on Tuesday and announced Ghaznavi’s appointment in a statement issued to local news agency KNS. The group has been fighting against Indian troops in the militancy-hit state for decades.
There was no immediate information available on Ghaznavi. Speculations were rife that his real name was Sabzar Ahmed Bhat. But police refused to comment on this.
A native of Rathsuna in southern Kashmir, Sabzar was said to be a close friend of Wani, who joined the militant group when he was 15 years old and became the poster boy of modern-day militancy in Kashmir .
Officials said Sabzar and another militant, Shakir Ahmed Bhat, joined the Hizbul Mujahideen in April 2015 after Wani’s brother, Khalid, was killed by forces in Kamla forests of Tral town. Wani reportedly discouraged the two at that time as Shakir was just 16 years old.
In December 2015, police announced a cash reward on a group of militants and Sabzar was among them.