The first one in the family to pick up arms was Sheikh’s elder brother, Ibrahim, who became one of the first militants in Kashmir in the early ’90s
Anantnag: Most-wanted Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant Abbas Sheikh, who was killed by policemen in plainclothes in Srinagar on Monday, was the seventeenth militant in his immediate and extended family to have been killed, over the past more than two decades. The slain include Sheikh’s two brothers as well.
Sheikh, alias Abdul Rehman Molvi Turabi, was gunned down by policemen in civvies, in broad daylight, at a playground in Marajpor area of Srinagar. His young aide, Saqib Manzoor, a resident of Barzulla area in Srinagar city, was also shot dead.
Kashmir Inspector-General of Police Vijay Kumar called the killing of Sheikh a “major success” when he briefed the media about the shootout. He termed Sheikh as one of the most wanted militants in Kashmir.
- Abbas Sheikh was a father figure in militant circles of Kashmir. ‘He was a planner and a weapon arranger like no other,’ a police officer said.
- Sheikh’s elder brother, Ibrahim, was 21 when he picked up arms. He was killed in an ambush by government forces in May 1996, the same year Abbas picked up arms.
- Days after Ibrahim’s killing, the youngest of the three siblings, Ashraf Sheikh, was arrested for militancy links and sent to Kot Balwal jail in Jammu.
- Ashraf bought an AK-47 for 1,20,000 rupees to become a militant. He was killed within 40 days.
- 15 other young men slain have been close relatives of Sheikh and his family, not distant ones, including their two nephews (sons of their sisters), Asiful Islam and Tawseef Sheikh.
Abbas Sheikh was a category A++ militant and considered to be a major “motivator” for young militants. The son of a farmer, Ghulam Hassan, of Rampora village in Kulgam district, Sheikh joined militant ranks for the first time in 1996.
“He was arrested and released multiple times, but he never really gave up militancy. He swung between being a militant and an OGW, while he worked as a tailor as well,” a police officer, privy to the intelligence information on Sheikh, told Kashmir Reader.
The officer said that Sheikh, with experience of more than 20 years, was considered to be a father figure in militant circles of Kashmir. “He was a planner and a weapon arranger like no other,” he said.
In 2014, government forces raided the Sheikh household in Rampora and he escaped, never returning after that. But he was not the first one in the family to have become a militant.
“So far we have lost 17 young men in the last more than 20 years. The slain include Sheikh’s elder and younger brother as well,” a family source told Kashmir Reader.
The first one in the family to pick up arms was Sheikh’s elder brother, Ibrahim, who became one of the first militants in Kashmir in the early ’90s. “He was 21 when he picked up arms,” the family source said.
Ibrahim was killed in an ambush by government forces in May 1996, the same year Sheikh picked up arms.
“A day after Ibrahim’s killing, his son Salman was born,” the family source said.
Days after Ibrahim’s killing, the youngest of the three siblings, Ashraf Sheikh, was arrested for militancy links and sent to Kot Balwal jail in Jammu. Ashraf remained in jail while Sheikh remained an active militant.
Ashraf was released in 2000. He married Ibrahim’s widow, and started to build a new life. “He was, however, constantly tortured and detained for militancy links. Government forces often came looking for Abbas Sheikh,” the family source said.
Sheikh was arrested in 2004 but was released soon. He picked up arms again in 2005 and was re-arrested in 2007. He remained in detention for 3 years.
While Sheikh was in detention, Ashraf, “unable to bear the daily humiliation,” picked up arms, that too at a time when there was no other active militant in the entire Kulgam district.
“Pick up arms’ will be the wrong phrase. He bought an AK-47 for 1,20,000 rupees to become a militant,” the family source said.
His tryst with militancy was short-lived, however. He was killed within 40 days of joining militant ranks.
Sheikh was in jail when Ashraf was killed. He was released in 2010 and then he started working as a tailor. “But all along he worked as an OGW and was arrested in 2013 again. He was released soon this time around,” the police officer told Kashmir Reader.
Sheikh remained an active militant ever since and had been the most sought-after militant. He remained elusive and often merged with the crowd, remaining untraceable, until Monday.
Between Ibrahim and Sheikh, the family has lost 15 other young men who became militants. “In fact, this is the first time since early 1990 that the family does not have an active militant,” the police officer said.
And all of the 15 slain have been close relatives of Sheikh and his family, not distant ones, including their two nephews (sons of their sisters), Asiful Islam and Tawseef Sheikh.
“Tawseef’s mother was arrested and spent over a year in jail. She was accused of motivating young men to join militant ranks,” the family source said. “She has come back frail and ailing.”
Shabir Ahmad Sheikh and Maqbool Ahmad Sheikh were paternal cousins of Sheikh who both lost their lives after picking up arms. They lived in the same compound where Abbas Sheikh’s family lives.
“Their another paternal first cousin, Abdul Rasheed Wani, from Khodweni, was killed as well after becoming a militant,” the source told Kashmir Reader.
The chain was not limited to Kulgam district only. Their first cousins, Abdul Hameed Thoker and Khateebullah Thoker, from Waghama village of Bijbehara; their brother-in-law from Tral, Mushtaq Ahmad Bhat alias Gowhar; and another cousin from Shopian district, Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, were also killed in gunfights with government forces.
Maqbool Ahmad Sheikh alias Anwar Ali, Dildar Ahmad Shah, Muhammad Yousuf Bhat, Muhammad Yousuf Dar and Naveed Ahmad Bhat were their second cousins and other relatives to have been killed in the last twenty years.
“Besides, one of our cousins, Irshad Ahmad Lone, was killed in an army shootout in Havoora village in July 2018. He was 22 and not a militant,” the family source said.