Budgam: Operational commander of Hizbul Mujahideen and one of the longest-serving militants in Kashmir, Yasin Itoo alias Mehmood Gaznavi, is dead.
A resident of Nagam area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district, Itoo had a long association with Hizbul Mujahideen and was involved in keeping alive the prolonged unrest of 2016 that followed the killing of the group’s commander Burhan Wani. Sources in the police said that Itoo was instrumental in recruiting several young men into the Hizbul after Burhan Wani’s killing.
Itoo left home in 1996 when he was a second-year graduate student at Amar Singh College in Srinagar. He returned a year later and surrendered to the police. He was arrested but released a few months later. He left home again in the year 2002. In the meantime he had opened a coaching centre in the main market at Chadoora, where he taught students of all classes.
According to police, Yaseen was jailed under the Public Safety Act (PSA) and accused of killing five civilians in 2005. In April 2015, he has released. Thereafter he took part in protests, following which he was arrested in October under the PSA again, police said.
In December 2015 he left home for Jammu to appear at a court hearing there, he never came back. He was assumed to have died and his funeral prayers in absentia were held, led by Tehreek-e-Hurriyat’s Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai and other pro-freedom politicians. Tributes poured in from all sections of society. After six months, a brother of his was picked up by police. He was asked about Yaseen. It was then that the family learned that Yaseen was alive, and had joined Hizb again.
Yaseen Yatoo, who died at the age of 42, appeared in several videos posted online, including the one where he was seen addressing a huge rally in south Kashmir during the 2016 unrest.
In the past 20 years, Yaseen was in and out of jail several times. He had once come back home having left militancy and had joined the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat.
Police say that Itoo went across the border to receive arms training. He came back a year later, only to ‘surrender’ a few months later. He joined militant ranks again in 2002, along with another recruit, Yaseen Rather of Kralpora.
A year later, Yaseen was rearrested along with an AK-47 rifle and was lodged in Central Jail for more than a year. In 2004, Yaseen was made District Commander in Hizb ranks.
After Itoo quit militancy, he joined Tehreek-e-Hurriyat, but on December 20, 2015, when Yaseen left his home for Jammu, he never came back.