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Kulgam Gunfight: Al Badr commander Zeenat, aide killed

Known cordon breaker, Islam was A++ category rebel; ‘his killing major setback to militancy’

Top Al Badr commander Zeenat-ul-Islam, and his associate Shakeel Dar, were killed in a gunfight in Yaripora area of south Kashmir’s Kulgam district late on Saturday evening.

A police official said the gunfight broke out at Kathpora village following an operation launched by a joint team of the Army’s 34 Rashtriya Rifles, the SOG of J&K Police and the CRPF. “It was a brief gunfight in which two militants were killed,” the police official said.

Later in the night at 1:04 am the police confirmed killing of the militants, on its official twitter handle, identifying them as Zeenat-ul-Islam and Shakeel Dar.

“The militants were caught unawares as the army men came in sumo vehicles and opened fire triggering a brief exchange of fire,” the official said.

Islam, 30, alias Usman hailing from Sugan village of restive Zainapora in Shopian district was listed in police records as category A++ militant and carried a bounty of Rs 12.5 lakh on his head.

He was a known “cordon breaker” and had on several occasions given government forces a slip during search operations including a major encounter in Dragad-Sugan in Shopian on 1 April 2018 in which seven militants from Hizb-ul-Mujahideen were killed. That time Islam was associated with Hizb.

In November, last year Islam, however, left Hizb to join Al-Badr. In an audio message in which he had announced his decision Islam had described Hizb chief RiyazNaikoo as his “leader and inspiration” while maintaining that the decision was taken after a “consensus between two armed groups and in order to strengthen his parent outfit (Al Badr)”.

A Bachelor in Science, Islam, according to police, worked with Al Badr militant outfit from 2008 when he was arrested for the first time, and booked under the Public Safety Act (PSA).

After being released he had married and has a daughter. However, soon he had recycled into the militant ranks. “Initially, he was associated with Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) but soon he switched over to Hizb and rose in its ranks to become district commander of Shopian,” a police official said.

The tall, long-haired, Islam worked with slain top commanders of Hizb like WaseemMalla and SadamPaddar, and Wasim Shah of LeT to revive militancy in Shopian, said another police official. He was a regular during funerals of his associates.

He was active in militant ranks since 2015 and was regarded as an IED expert too. “Islam could have helped the outfit (Al Badr) grow as he was the key recruiter in the south. His killing is certainly a blow to militancy in Kashmir,” the police official said.

A source said the two militants were killed, while two others managed to escape.

Director General of Police Dilbag Singh had earlier told Greater Kashmir that the bodies have been retrieved from the gunfight site. “The family (of Zeenat) is in denial mode, but the looks and other circumstances indicate Zeenat is one among the two militants killed,” he told Greater Kashmir late in the evening.

POLICE VERSION

The police in a statement said that based on a “credible input” about the presence of militants in Kathpora area of Yaripora in district Kulgam, a cordon and search operation was launched today jointly by the police and the security forces in the area.

As the searches were going on, the search party was fired upon by the militants. The fire was retaliated leading to a gunfight, it said. The police handout that was released late in the evening said that in the ensuing encounter, two militants were killed and the bodies were recovered from the site of encounter. However, that time the police had said the identity of the slain militants was being ascertained.

“Pertinently no collateral damage took place during the encounter,” it said, adding a case has been registered and investigation taken up. “Incriminating materials including arms and ammunition were recovered from the site of encounter,” the police handout said.

Meanwhile, the police have asked “citizens not to venture inside the encounter zone since such an area can prove dangerous due to stray explosive materials.”

“People are requested to cooperate with police till the area is completely sanitized and cleared of all the explosive materials if any,” it said.

Due to heavy snowfall in the Kupwara forests the wild animals have made their way towards villages in search of food, officials said on Saturday.

Nuzhat Shah, the wife of jailed leader of the Hurriyat Conference (M) Shahid-ul-Islam, survived heart stroke as she was immediately rushed to hospital for immediate treatment.

Source: Greater Kashmir

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