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Hizb chief Saifullah killed

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Killing has left HM leaderless: DGP

Forces stay alert near the encounter site in Rangreth. Photo-Javed Khan/ Kashmir Images

Srinagar: Hizbul Muhajideen chief Dr Saifullah was killed in an encounter on the outskirts of the city on Sunday, police said, describing it as a “huge success” for the security forces.

Saifullah, who had taken command of the outfit after the killing of Riyaz Naikoo in May this year, was one of the most wanted militants in the Kashmir Valley and involved in several attacks on the security forces, police said.

“This is a huge success for the police and security forces. This is not a small achievement,” Inspector General of Police (IGP), Kashmir, Vijay Kumar told reporters at the encounter site.

Recounting the events of the morning, an official said security forces launched a cordon and search operation in Rangreth area near the old airfield following specific information about the presence of militants there. As the forces were conducting searches in the area, the militants fired. The forces retaliated, resulting in the encounter.

A militant was killed in the exchange of fire, the official said, identifying him as Saifullah.

Incriminating material, including arms and ammunition, were recovered from the encounter site, he added.

Addressing reporters near the encounter site, IGP Kumar said they had received information that Saifullah had come here from south Kashmir and was hiding in a house.

“So the security forces cordoned off the area and an operation was launched. In the exchange of firing, one militant was killed. According to our source, we are 95 percent sure he is Dr Saifullah. We are retrieving the body and it will be identified,” Kumar added.

Kumar said the network of police has become stronger and police get information about any militant entering the city.

Asked whether any other militant was apprehended alive from the encounter site, he said a suspect has been taken into custody and is being questioned.

Later in the day, police in a press release confirmed that the slain militant was Hizbul Mujahideen chief.

The killed militant has been identified as Saif-ul-Islam Mir alias Dr Saif alias Ghazi Haider, resident of Malangpora, affiliated with Hizbul Mujahideen, the press release said.

It said as per police records, the said militant was chief operational commander of proscribed outfit Hizbul Mujahideen and was active since 2014.

He was involved in many militancy cases including “in killing of SgCT Khurshid Ahmad in Pulwama, killing of PSO of NC leader and SgCt Manzoor Ahmed in Kokernag, killing of a non-local truck driver at Bijbehara, killing of Tanveer Ahmad Dar in Shopian. He was also involved in attack on Sarpanch in Kokernag, grenade attacks on Police Post Kakapora and Police Post Lassipora,” police press release said, adding dozens of cases stand registered against him in different police stations.

Police also said “keeping in view the prevailing pandemic due to COVID-19 and to ensure the safety of people from inherent risk of contracting the infection, the dead body of the killed militant shall be sent to Baramulla for his burial and last rites after completion of medico-legal formalities. The nearest family members shall be allowed to participate in the last rites at Baramulla.”

Police also requested the people to cooperate till the area is completely sanitized and cleared of all the explosive materials, if any.

Meanwhile, the Director General of Police, Dilbag Singh Sunday termed the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen’s chief operational commander for the valley, Dr Saifullah as a “major success” and said that the militant outfit is once again leaderless.

Addressing a press conference at PCR Srinagar, according to news agency KNO, DGP Singh said that today’s operation, which was jointly launched by the police, army and CRPF in Rangreth area of Srinagar, “was a major success as the dreaded militant Dr Saifullah was neutralized during the operation”.

DGP said that Dr Saifullah “was a top and longest surviving militant commander in the Valley and he was involved in the killing of several innocent people”.

“He was active since 2014 when Burhan Wani was leading the Hizbul Mujahideen militant outfit and that is why after the killing of Hizbul chief Reyaz Naikoo on May 06 this year, he was given the charge of chief operational commander in the valley. He was in the list of dreaded militants even before taking the command of Hizbul Mujahideen,” the DGP said.

“Dr Saifullah was also involved in the killing of various innocent people including three policemen, two truck drivers who were attacked after the abrogation of Article 370 in which a truck driver and a conductor were killed. He was also involved in the recent attack on a sarpanch, who got injured in Kulgam district,” the DGP said.

He said that he was also behind the assassination of three BJP workers who were killed in a militant attack in Kulgam district this week.

DGP said that Dr Saifullah was also involved in recent attacks on various security installations across the Kashmir valley.

“We were tracking his movements from the last two days and I would like to congratulate Anantnag police for tracking his movement and sharing the inputs with Srinagar police and today we finally managed to neutralize him,” he said.

Replying to a question, Dilbag Singh said that more than 200 militants have been killed this year so far, which includes 190 in Kashmir Valley and over a dozen in Jammu division.

DGP also said that after the killing of Reyaz Naikoo, Hizbul Mujahideen had become leaderless and after the killing of Dr Saifullah, it has become leaderless once again.

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