The longest-surviving militant commander, who once led a major revolt against the Pakistan-based militant leadership and founded a radical group Lashkar-e-Islam, was killed on Tuesday while he was infiltrating back into Kashmir valley, police said.
Qayoom Najar, 45, was killed close to the Line of Control in Uri sector of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, immediately after infiltrating back into the Valley, two senior police officials said.
The security forces initially suspected that an unidentified foreign militant was killed in a routine infiltration attempt, but subsequent investigations found that the slain militant was Najar.
Inspector General of Police Kashmir Muneer Khan told The Tribune that Najar was returning to Kashmir to take over the command of Hizbul Mujahideen, whose top commanders in the region were killed in recent months and which is facing an ideological challenge from its former commander Zakir Musa, who now leads Qaida-linked Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Islam.
Najar, a resident of north Kashmir’s Sopore town, had joined Hizbul Mujahideen in the early part of 1990s and had topped the security forces’ list of most wanted militants in the region for almost a decade.
Najar, whose appearance remained anonymous for his entire militant life, carried a bounty of Rs 12.5 lakh and had fluctuating and fractured relations with his parent organisation Hizbul Mujahideen.
In October 2014, Najar had compiled a hit-list of alleged informers working for security forces, which included two high-profile members of the separatist group led by Syed Ali Geelani. The list was rejected by Hizbul Mujahideen leader Syed Salahuddin, which caused friction between the two commanders.
Months later, in the summer of 2015, Najar led a major revolt against Hizbul Mujahideen’s Pakistan- based leadership and formed a radical new group called Lashkar-e-Islam. Salahuddin and Geelani initially claimed Lashkar-e-Islam was a creation of Indian intelligence agencies, but later Najar was publicly suspended from the membership of Hizbul Mujahideen.
During its revolt, Najar’s Lashkar-e-Islam had carried out attacks on the telecom sector as it blamed the widespread use of mobile phone communication for leaking information about the movement of militants.
His splinter group had also killed six individuals on accusations of working as informers for security agencies, which included former militants and members of Geelani’s group.
Najar along with his Lashkar-e-Islam deputy commander Tariq Mir had also barged into Geelani’s Srinagar residence and threatened him for interfering in militant operations.
Najar had reportedly reconciled with Hizbul, according to police sources, and had ex-filtrated to Pakistan from where he was returning to Kashmir valley.