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Who will be the new LeT commander? A Kashmiri face likely this time

As security forces knock off militant leaders one by one from their hit list, intelligence agencies believe that militant outfit Lashkar-e -Toiba may appoint a local Kahsmir to head its operations in the valley.

india Updated: Sep 15, 2017 22:21 IST
Azaan Javaid
Azaan Javaid
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
LeT,JeM,Hizbul Mujahideen
The Army in recent months has notched up major successes by eliminating quite a few militant commanders. (PTI)

Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), which on Thursday lost one of its commanders in an encounter, will likely choose a Kashmiri face to head the group in south Kashmir, suggest latest intelligence reports.

According to sources in J-K police as well as the CRPF, 28-year-old Zeenat-ul-Islam is most likely to be made the LeT commander in Kashmir. On Thursday, Abu Ismail believed to be behind the Amarnath Yatra attack this year, was killed in an encounter with security forces in the outskirts of Srinagar. While officials are yet to confirm that Zeenat has taken Ismail’s place, sources in security forces said the 28-year-old is the most likely probable.

A resident of Sugan Zanipura in south Kashmir’s Shopian area, Zeenat joined Al-Badar militant outfit in 2015 and has over the last two years become an expert with improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

According to an intelligence input shared by official sources on Friday, Zeenat was once arrested in 2008 where he is said to have confessed to being an over ground worker (OGW). He was eventually released four years later following which he joined LeT. He is also considered one of the main accused in the Shopian attack in February that left three soldiers dead.

Read more: Lashkar commander, Amarnath attack mastermind: Who was Abu Ismail?  

Intelligence officials on Friday also told Hindustan Times that Zeenat is among the five most wanted men in Kashmir the others being Zakir Musa, Riyaz Naikoo, Saddam Padder and another individual who goes by the name of “Khalid”.

Officials said Khalid is believed to be commander of another Pakistan-based outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammad and has trained and infiltrated from Pakistan. Authorities believe he is active in north Kashmir’s Sopore area. Other than Khalid the rest are Kashmiri natives.

Musa, who is now heading Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind, a newly formed militant outfit, tops the list of wanted militants in Kashmir. He had recently left Hizbul Mujahideen(HM) following ideological differences and threatened to kill senior separatist leadership in Kashmir.

The next one on the most wanted list is HM’s new ‘operational commander’, Riyaz Naikoo, who took over as the outfit’s head after Yaseen Ittoo, was killed in a gunfight last month. The list also contains the name of Hizbul’s Saddam Padder who was among the most trusted aides of slain Hizb commander Burhan Wani.

First Published: Sep 15, 2017 20:28 IST