Um­mer’s killers

The Indian Express - - THE SECOND PAGE -

in the course of a per­sonal feud. Bhat, along with his friends Sar­taj Ah­mad and Altaf Lone, was charged with hav­ing pushed Ah­mad out of a mov­ing ve­hi­cle.

Phone records ob­tained for cell­phones known to be­long to mem­bers of the group, sources said, also showed that they were in the vicin­ity of mur­der.

“We are con­tin­u­ing to ques­tion peo­ple to de­ter­mine how the killers came to know Lieu­tenant Fayaz would be at­tend­ing the wed­ding”, an of­fi­cial fa­mil­iar with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion said.

Bhat’s fa­ther, Ab­dul Jab­bar Bhat, re­ported that Bhat had skipped bail and gone miss­ing from home on Septem­ber 25, the date he is thought to have joined the Hizb-ul­mu­jahideen.

The Hizb op­er­a­tive is also sus­pected, po­lice sources said, of the April 17 mur­der of Imtiyaz Ah­mad Khan, one of three lawyers in­volved in prose­cut­ing the 2011 mur­der of the Shopian mur­der.

Khan, a res­i­dent of Pin­joora in Shopian, was shot dead with an Insas ri­fle out­side his home late in the evening, in an ex­e­cu­tion-style killing that closely re­sem­bled Fayaz’s mur­der.

Khan, a 36-year-old lawyer, was also re­lated to Na­tional Con­fer­ence ac­tivist Shab­bir Kul­lay and cam­paigned for him dur­ing the 2014 elec­tions, when he stood from Shopian as an in­de­pen­dent can­di­date.

Now 27, Bhat grew up in the vil­lage of Mantribugh, just a few kilo­me­tres from Fayaz’s home in Sur­sun and grad­u­ated from a lo­cal col­lege. He taught briefly at a pri­vate school in the area, po­lice records state, where he was work­ing when he was ar­rested in the 2011 mur­der case.

“It’s likely he knew of Lieu­tenant Fayaz for many years”, an of­fi­cer fa­mil­iar with the case said. “There aren’t ex­actly a lot of stu­dents who go on to join the Army”.

Ish­faq Ah­mad Thokar, code-named Abrar, who is be­lieved to have be­come ac­tive in the Hizb-ul-mu­jahideen in Septem­ber 2015, and Ghias-ul-is­lam Thokar, co­de­named Fa­had, who joined the group 13 months later, op­er­ated mainly in the area around their home vil­lage, Pader­pora.

Pader­pora is a short dis­tance from Sur­sun; both men may again have been ac­quainted with Fayaz.

Though the Hizb-ul-mu­jahideen gained some num­bers of lo­cal re­cruits in the wake of the killing of lo­cal ji­hadist Burhan Wani in the sum­merof2016,none­ofthere­cruit­sare­known to have re­ceived ad­vanced train­ing in arms or tac­tic­sso­far,and­havere­liedonban­dit­ry­orvil­lage-level con­tri­bu­tions for their fi­nances.

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