In a major success for the security agencies, Hizbul Mujahideen’s top most commander in Kashmir Mehmood Ghaznavi has been killed in a fierce gun fight that started on Saturday evening at Shopian. Two other militants and two soldiers were also killed in the encounter that lasted for close to 20 hours.
Yasin Itoo, known by his nom de guerre Mehmood Ghaznavi had taken over the command of Hizbul Mujahideen after the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani in July last year. “Top HM commander Yasin Itoo @ Ghaznavi among the killed terrorists in Shopian encounter,” Deputy Inspector General of Police (DGP) south Kashmir S P Pani tweeted.
Ghaznavi’s killing is a major success for security agencies as he was among the most wanted militant commanders in the valley and had successfully mobilized the Hizb cadres after the killing of Burhan Wani. Immediately after Wani’s killing, Hizb supreme Syed Salah-ud-din announced Ghaznavi as his successor.
A resident of Budgam in central Kashmir, Ghaznavi first joined militants in 1996 and was arrested several times. Sometime after his release in 2015, he went missing and a Hizb statement declared his dead. In a statement, Hizb Chief Salah-ud-din said that Ghaznavi was killed when he fell from a mountain while being on “operational duties”. His funeral of absentia was offered at his Nagam residence.
However, after the killing of Burhan Wani, Itoo, now transformed into Mehmood Ghaznavi, appeared in south Kashmir and addressed massive public rallies in different parts of the region. It was then that he again came on police radar.
The other two militants killed in the overnight encounter have been identified as Sheikh Irfan-ul-Haq and Umar Majeed, both local militants. A B.Tech graduate in Food technology, Irfan-ul-Haq had joined militants two years ago.
Two soldiers were also killed in the encounter while six have been injured. Army has identified the slain soldiers as Gawai Sumedh Waman and Ilayaraja P.