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After Sabzar Bhat’s killing, longest-surviving Hizbul commander could be its new chief

Riyaz Naikoo, 30, is a post graduate, and the longest-surviving militant in Hizbul Mujahideen and had joined group almost along with Burhan Wani.

india Updated: May 30, 2017 17:05 IST
Toufiq Rashid
Toufiq Rashid
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Sabzar Bhat,Kashmir unrest,Kashmir encounter
Residents shout slogans during a funeral procession of militant Sabzar Bhat at Rathsuna village in Tral.(Waseem Andrabi/HT Photo)

A few days after the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Sabzar Bhat in an encounter in Tral in South Kashmir, many names are doing rounds as contenders for the top spot by Hizbul Mujahideen.

While some media reports quoted intelligence sources as saying another top commander Riyaz Naikoo might be named chief , official sources told HT that there a few more contenders.

While Naikoo seems to be the best option after the group’s fall out with Zakir Musa, others like Yaseen Itoo and Sadam Paddar are also the contenders.

Naikoo, 30, is a post graduate, and the longest-surviving militant in Hizbul Mujahideen and had joined group almost along with Burhan Wani-the local commander whose death triggered unrest of 2016 in which 100 people were killed.

Yaseen on the other hand is oldest among the current lot of militants. According to sources, Itoo who goes with the alias Ghaznavi is the only among the current batch of militants who has a “pan district command’’.

About 40 years of age, Itoo has served jailed terms twice.

While the group had named Mehmood Ghaznavi as their commander after Burhan’s death, it is not clear if they were referring to Itoo. “While most of the militants in groups of fours and fives, who operate in their own districts. The militants are not under one central command but only Itoo has a pan district hold,’’ said an official. Unlike other Hizb commanders, who were from South Kashmir and more specifically from Tral, Itoo is from Chadoora in Budgam in central Kashmir.

Sadam Paddar another contender. Waseem Shah and Altaf Kachroo are also important. All of them carry a reward between Rs 10 and Rs 12 lakh.

Sources say Sabzar’s killing will also bring back focus on Lashkar militant Abu Dujana. “The group distinctions have also blurred , the Hizb and Lashkar are seen working in coordination. So Abu Dujanas stature might also rise,’’ said an official.

“This will discourage a lot of boys who were intending to join militants,’’ said a source.

The Army has also made it clear that going after “the top commanders is going to be the future strategy”. Around 200 militants are currently active and 110 of them are locals .

First Published: May 30, 2017 00:08 IST