Riyaz Naikoo Reportedly Killed In Pulwama Encounter; Naikoo Was Kashmir’s Most Wanted Militant

Riyaz Naikoo was believed to be trapped in the Kulgam Encounter in the Kashmir Valley - Unconfirmed Reports

Riyaz Naikoo has been killed in Pulwama encounter as per latest reports. Naikoo was believed to be trapped in Pulwama after a terrorist was killed in a gun battle with Indian forces Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

The Indian security forces on Wednesday trapped a top terrorist after an overnight operation in Jammu and Kashmir’s Awantipora. The notorious militant has been identified as Riyaz Naikoo.

Naikoo carries a reward of  Rs 12 lakh on his head. If Riyaz Naikoo is arrested or eliminated in the ensuing encounter, it will be a big blow to the local terror groups active in the area, especially Hizb-Ul-Mujahideen, said experts.

The Jammu and Kashmir Police took to Twitter and said, “Contact established in the third operation at Beighpora in Awantipur. Top terrorist commander is trapped.’’ Exchange of fire is on and more details will follow, it added.

Earlier, as ET reported, the counter-insurgency operation is still underway in Sharsali village in Awantipora where the terrorist was gunned down, police said. Two operations are underway in Pulwama district from late Tuesday night after receiving intelligence about the presence of militants in the area.

One of the search operations is currently being conducted in Beighpora Gulzapora, the native village of HM’s chief Riyaz Naikoo, who is the most wanted militant in Jammu and Kashmir. However, it’s not clear whether Naikoo is trapped in the cordon.

Riyaz Naikoo and Jaish-e-Muhammad

Riyaz Naikoo, a former mathematics teacher is the present head of Hizbul Mujahideen in Jammu and Kashmir Valley. Naikoo is categorised as A++ Militant in the Indian security force’s list of Top Militant Commanders in Valley. Naikoo carries a bounty of 1.2 Million for any information leading to the arrest which is a lucrative amount for a turmoil hit Kashmir.

Naikoo has been a strong advocator of Pakistan in the Kashmir region and has been involved in several murder cases, including the murder of policemen. Riyaz Naikoo has also released many videos threatening informers and local policemen to stay away from anti-militancy operations and is believed to be backed by a massive network of Over Ground Worker.

Who is Riyaz Naikoo?

Riyaz Naikoo was born to Asadullah and Zeba in Beighpora village of Awantipora in district Pulwama in April 1985. Asadullah and Zeba are farmers and also own a small tailoring shop in Beighpora village. Naikoo studied at the government school in the neighbouring village of Gulzarpora, and then at the Higher Secondary School in Noorpora—home to the family of killed militant Zakir Musa.

“Riyaz wanted to become an engineer but he decided to do his graduation in science with Mathematics as his major subject,” said his father”. In 12th class, Riyaz scored 464 marks out of 600. He was always the quiet type of person and everyone in the village praised him for his calmness. He was regular at praying and reading the Quran and at a very young age even was called upon by village elders to mitigate local disputes. After his graduation, he began teaching Maths at a private school.”

In 2010, Tufail Ahmad Mattoo was killed when a tear gas shell—fired by policemen to quell a protest against the encounter of three civilians in Machil—struck him as he played cricket in Srinagar’s Gani memorial stadium.

Mattoo’s death triggered a fresh cycle of unrest; scores of youth were arrested by the police and Naikoo was one of them. When he was released from prison in 2012, something had changed inside the young maths teacher.

That summer, Naikoo asked his father for Rs 7,000 to apply for admission in a post-graduate university in Bhopal. On 21 May 2012, Asadullah recalled, the family brought home a chicken for dinner and left for evening prayers. “Following the prayers, I couldn’t spot him,” Asadullah said. “I thought he must have gone to meet his cousins but he didn’t return.” The family tried to call him, but his phone was switched off. On 6 June, the police told Asadullah his son had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen.

India Targeting Kashmiri Militant Families To Crush Rebellion From The Root?

Riyaz Naikoo and Zakir Musa

Burhan Wani, Hizbul Mujahideen’s most charismatic militant was only 21 when he was killed by the Indian security forces in Bumdoora village in Kokernag area of South Kashmir in 2016. He was succeeded by Zakir Rashid Bhat (Musa), who was also 21 when he took command of operations in the south.

Yet, in a video released after Wani’s death, Zakir Musa—struck an off-key note. “Nationalism and democracy are not permissible in Islam,” Musa, said. “When we pick up stones or guns, it should not be with this intention that we are fighting for Kashmir. The sole motive should be for the supremacy of Islam so that Shariah is established here.”

The call for Shariah surprised many in the valley. Kashmir’s insurgency had long described itself as an armed movement for independence, with some groups—the Hizb included—calling for a merger of Kashmir with Pakistan. Musa’s call for merging Kashmir with a global Islamic caliphate was new.

Musa’s axis was also obvious in an audio clip released in May 2017, in which he warned to cut the heads of Hurriyat leaders and hang them at Srinagar’s Lal Chowk if they came in his way of establishing Islamic rule in Kashmir. When the Hizbul refused to support the statement, Musa announced he was cutting ties with them and formed Ansar Ghawzat-Ul-Hind.

“In South Kashmir, Zakir Musa started losing popularity since Naikoo took command,” said a senior intelligence officer, requesting anonymity. “While Musa is partly responsible for the loss of his popularity in the South, Naikoo’s authority and ability to gel people together worked in his favour.

“Naikoo was a close ally of Burhan Wani but not as close as Zakir Musa, said a senior police officer. “However he had a powerful influence in the group owing to his seniority. After Musa’s desertion, Naikoo and his deputy commander Kachroo stuck together.”

Apart from planning the online resignations of J&K Cops, Riyaz Naikoo was also behind “abduction day”, when eleven family members of six policemen were kidnapped by militants in South Kashmir. All the captives were ultimately released, but only after Naikoo’s father was let off from police custody, a strategy seen as a psychological victory for the Hizbul and Riyaz Naikoo.