Separatist leader’s son among 2 Hizb militants shot dead in Srinagar
Tuesday’s gunfight between militants & security forces was the first in Srinagar since 2018
SRINAGAR: A top Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) commander was among two militants killed in an overnight gunbattle with security forces in Srinagar’s Nawakadal area on Tuesday, Jammu & Kashmir police chief Dilbag Singh said. This was the first such firefight in Srinagar since 2018 and was triggered after the forces launched an operation in the heart of the city following a tip-off about the militant presence there.
Singh identified the slain militants as HM’s divisional commander Junaid Ashraf Khan, AGE, who was the son of separatist leader and Tahreek-e-Hurriyat chairman Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai, and Tariq Ashraf, AGE.
The overnight gunbattle is the latest in a series of firefights in the Kashmir Valley over the last two months that have coincided with an escalation in violence in the region. It came days after Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo, 35, who carried a bounty of ₹12 lakh on his head, was killed in Pulwama district on May 6.
The fresh operation began on Monday night when security forces encircled a cluster of houses in the densely-populated Nawakadal. Residents said they heard the first exchange of fire in the locality around midnight. The exchange resumed on Tuesday morning and the gunbattle ended around 1 pm on Tuesday when the forces recovered two bodies from a damaged house.
Singh said Junaid Ashraf Khan had joined militancy two years ago and had been operating in Srinagar, Budgam, Pulwama and Shopian districts. “His associate [Tariq Ashraf] who was killed in today’s encounter had joined militancy only in March this year,’’ he said.
Junaid Ashraf Khan, a Master of Business Administration graduate from the Kashmir University, joined the militant ranks in
March 2018 after he went missing from Srinagar. He later posted a picture holding a gun as he announced he had joined HM, Jammu & Kashmir’s biggest militant group. His father replaced Syed Ali Shah Geelani as the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat chief the same year.
Singh said that Junaid Ashraf Khan was involved in over half-adozen criminal cases besides attacks on security forces and intimidation of civilians. “He was currently operating as the divisional commander of Hizbul Mujahideen of central Kashmir...” Singh said they had been trying to track Junaid Ashraf Khan for several days.
Singh said they have been trying to keep Srinagar peaceful but enemies were attempting to disturb the peace of the city. He said most of the grenade attacks in the city lately have been found to be linked to HM. “We have arrested 12 people and busted modules trying to carry out attacks in the city.’’
Police personnel evacuating civilians from near the encounter site in Srinagar on Tuesday.