Riyaz Naikoo, one of Kashmir’s most wanted terrorists and commander of Hizbul Mujahideen, killed in encounter

Riyaz Naikoo, one of Kashmir’s most wanted terrorists and the commander of terror group Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed during an encounter in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Wednesday morning.
Naikoo was killed during an anti-terrorist operation conducted by the Army and J&K Police in the Beighpura area of Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district. A second terrorist, believed to be an accomplice of Naikoo, was also killed in the encounter.
The operation was one of three separate anti-terror ops launched in the south Kashmir area. Two other terrorists were killed in another encounter in Sharshali village of the district’s Pampore area.
As the encounter involving Naikoo, 32, began at 9 am, mobile internet services were suspended across all 10 districts of Kashmir Valley. Mobile internet services remain suspended as authorities look to control any backlash from Naikoo’s killing.
Riyaz Naikoo, who had a bounty of Rs 12 lakh on his head, was regarded as a key target for India once he took charge of the Hizbul Mujahideen.
According to SP Vaid, former Director General of J&K Police, Naikoo was the most wanted terrorist after former Hizbul chief Burhan Wani, who was killed in an encounter in July 2016.
Born in the south Kashmir area, Naikoo was a mathematics school teacher who became a terrorist in 2012. Wanted in 11 terror-related cases, he became “head of operations in Kashmir” after taking over from Yaseen Ittoo, a top terrorist killed in an encounter in September 2017.
Naikoo played a key role in using social media to indoctrinate and recruit young Kashmiri men into terrorism, as per the police. He was also involved in a number of others cases, including the killing of special police officers (SPOs) and threating J&K Police officials into resignation.
A 2017 Intelligence Bureau report described Naikoo as “one of the most experienced Hizbul commanders” and a “very tech-savvy” terrorist, who played the role of facilitator and motivator.
Earlier on Wednesday J&K Police tweeted: “Contact established in the third operation at Awantipur. Top terrorist commander is trapped. Exchange of fire on. Details shall follow”.
Minutes earlier the police tweeted: “Third operation launched by Awantipur Police last night on a specific input too is in progress at Beigpora Awantipora. Senior officers monitoring since last night”.
Over the past month at least 22 members of the country’s security forces, including army officers, have been killed in the Kashmir Valley.
This sudden spike in encounters, coming amid reports of infiltration by highly-trained terrorists from Pakistan, poses a major security challenge even as the country fights the COVID-19 crisis.
On Sunday two senior Army officers – a colonel and a major – were among five security personnel killed in action during an encounter in Handwara in J&K’s Kupwara district. A sub-inspector and two soldiers also lost their lives.
On Monday, there was an attack on a CRPF (central reserve police force) team in the same area that led to three personnel being killed.