Anantnag: Top Al-Badr commander Zeenat-ul-Islam was killed alongwith his associate Shakeel Dar in Yaripora area of Kulgam in south Kashmir on Saturday evening.
Initially officials remained tightlipped about the identities of the slain militants and confirmed it in the dead of night.
“Both involved in several #terror crimes. #Arms & ammunition recovered. Case registered. Investigation is underway,” announced the police on its official twitter handle around 1am.
The police, while this report was being filed, maintained that even the bodies of the militants were yet to be retrieved.
“The operation is still going on. The firing has stopped but the bodies are yet to be retrieved,” Inspector General of Police (IGP) SP Pani said in the evening.
The gunfight, a brief one, took place at about 5:30 PM Saturday evening in Kathpora locality of Yaripora in Kulgam district.
A senior official from the district said that the militants rushed out of a residential house and took position in a nearby paddy field, while a cordon was being laid in the area.
“They fired from there and after a brief exchange of fire the two militants were killed,” the official said, adding that another one is believed to have escaped.
One among the most wanted militants in the Valley, Zeenat carried a price of above Rs 12 lakh on his head. Hailing from Shopian’s Sugan village, his tryst with militancy began in 2008 when he was booked first time for his affiliation with Al-Badr. After his release two years later, he completed bachelors degree and got married in 2013.
Like scores of youth, Zeenat deserted home to sign up as a militant with Lashkar-e-Toiba in 2015. In next few months, however, he switched to Hizbul Mujahideen and emerged as one of the most wanted militant commanders. In November last year, he shifted to his ‘parent’ outfit Al-Badr.
Hizb and Al-Badr are ideologically identical, as both draw inspiration from the Jamaat-e-Islami and it gives Al-Badr the benefit of utilising Hizb’s logistics. Interestingly, an audiotape released by Zeenat after shifting to Al-Badr evidently corroborated the pact between the two outfits when he described his former Hizb chief Riyaz Naikoo as his “leader and inspiration”.
Credited with reviving the dormant Al-Badr in Shopian, his killing is seen as a blow to the outfit. Earlier he had miraculously escaped from clutches of death by breaking cordons including the fiercest 2018 Shopian gunfight when seven militants were killed together.
On Saturday, however, forces killed him along with his associate Shakeel in a brief gunfight in an open area without much resistance.