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Who was Riyaz Naikoo, Kashmir’s most wanted terrorist?

Much before he rose to the top ranks of Hizbul Mujahideen, Naikoo had hogged headlines for arriving at the funeral of terrorist Shariq Ahmad Bhat carrying a Kalashnikov rifle

May 06, 2020 / 09:36 PM IST
Eliminated Hizbul terrorist Riyaz Naikoo (Image: Twitter)

Eliminated Hizbul terrorist Riyaz Naikoo (Image: Twitter)

In a big win for the security forces, Hizbul Mujahideen chief Riyaz Ahmad Naikoo was gunned down by the Indian Army in an encounter that started early on May 6. He was killed in his native village of Beigpora in South Kashmir Awantipora, days after two Indian Army officers and five soldiers were martyred in an encounter in Handwara.

Not only was Naikoo Hizbul’s senior-most active commander but also one of Kashmir’s most wanted terrorists of A++ category. He carried a bounty of Rs 12 lakh on his head. The 35-year-old Kashmiri terrorist was the oldest surviving member of the terror group.

He used to teach mathematics in a school until massive protests rocked Kashmir following a civilian’s death in clashes with the armed forces in 2010. Naikoo had joined in the protests and was arrested along with several others for resorting to violence. When he was released after two years, he served as an overground worker before joining Hizbul Mujahideen.

He was tech-savvy, just like Hizbul’s poster boy Burhan Wani, and rose in ranks swiftly following the latter’s death. When Zakir Musa broke away from Hizb, he reportedly played an instrumental role to ensure the youth recruited by his terror outfit are not poached by other groups.

Much before he rose to the top ranks of the militant outfit, Naikoo had hogged headlines after arriving at the funeral of terrorist Shariq Ahmad Bhat carrying a Kalashnikov rifle in 2016. He had even fired shots in the air, and it is believed he eventually went on to revive the tradition of “paying tributes” to slain terrorists. He was spotted several times thereafter at various funerals, brandishing a gun in public.

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A year later, in a video released by the terror group in 2017, Naikoo had assured safe passage for the return of Kashmiri pandits to the Valley. He had said the militants did not consider the minority community to be enemies of Kashmir. In 2018, he had offered similar security to Amarnath Yatris and dubbed the pilgrims as guests of Kashmir.

Security forces had laid traps to nab him several times in the past, but he had always managed to escape. He had planned and executed several attacks on security forces and Jammu and Kashmir police. including the audacious plan to abduct family members of policemen in 2018.
Jagyaseni Biswas
first published: May 6, 2020 06:09 pm

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