Hizbul terrorists, including separatist leader’s son, killed in Srinagar encounter
Police said a joint operation was launched in the area late on Monday night by police and CRPF following a specific tipoff about the presence of militants.Updated: May 19, 2020 21:52 IST
Two Hizbul Mujahideen militants, including divisional commander Junaid Ashraf Khan, were killed in a gun battle with security forces at Nawakadal in Srinagar’s old quarters on Tuesday.
Khan is the youngest son of senior separatist leader and Tahreek-e-Hurriyat chairman, Mohammad Ashraf Khan alias Sehrai.
This was the first gun battle between security forces and militants in the city’s old quarters in the past two years. The presence of militants in the area is being seen as the re-emergence of militancy in the densely populated part of Srinagar.
Police said a joint operation was launched in the area late on Monday night by police and CRPF following a specific tipoff about the presence of militants.
The operation, carried out along with the Central Reserve Police Force, began at around midnight when security forces encircled a cluster of houses in the neighbourhood. Local residents said they heard an exchange of fire at around midnight. The exchange of fire resumed on Tuesday morning and the gun battle ended at around 1 pm, when troops recovered two bodies from a house that was blasted during the fighting.
Jammu and Kashmir’s director general of police Dilbag Singh said both militants were locals. “We have identified the terrorists as Junaid Ashraf Khan, who is from Srinagar, and Tariq Ashraf Sheikh from Pulwama. Junaid is the younger son of Hurriyat chairman Mohammad Ashraf Khan. He joined militancy two years ago,” he said.
Singh told a news conference that Khan was operating in the four districts of Srinagar, Budgam, Pulwama and Shopian. “His associate had joined militancy only in March,” he added.
Khan was allegedly involved in more than half a dozen criminal cases, attacks on security forces and issuing threats to civilians, Singh said. “He was operating as the divisional commander of Hizbul Mujahideen for central Kashmir, including Pulwama and Shopian,” he said.
Singh said security forces are trying to keep Srinagar as peaceful as possible, but enemies make attempts to disturb the peace. “Most of the grenade attacks in the city have been linked to the Hizbul Mujahideen. We arrested 12 people and busted modules, which were trying to attack the city,” he said.
Singh said Khan was being tracked by the security forces for many days and the operation was launched on Monday after officials received a specific input about the presence of militants in the area.
Mobile internet services across Srinagar were suspended and voice calls of all service providers other than BSNL were snapped during the operation. Strict restrictions were imposed in the area because of fears that the killing of the militants could trigger clashes in the old quarters of the city.
Since the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown in late March, there has been surge in gun battles and top Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Ahmad Naikoo was recently killed with an associate at Beighpora Gulzapora. The security forces had described his death as a big success and a setback for the Hizbul Mujahideen. Khan was the second top Hizb commander to be killed in Kashmir in recent days.
After the killing of Naikoo, the Hizb had announced the names of three new commanders, including Ghazi Haider, who was named the group’s new operational chief.
Khan had joined militancy in March 2018 after he went missing from his house in Srinagar. Later, he posted a picture of himself holding a gun on social media and announced he was joining the Hizbul Mujahideen. The same year, his father Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, 74, replaced Ali Shah Geelani as the chief of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat. Khan had done his MBA from Kashmir University before joining militancy.