After encounter fire-fight, combing operation suspended on Friday morning; normal life hit
The body of Al-Qaeda-affiliate Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind chief Zakir Rashid Bhat alias Musa, 25, was buried in Pulwama’s Tral on Friday. The authorities imposed curfew-like restrictions in vast parts of the Valley, especially south Kashmir and capital Srinagar.
The police said the body of Musa, who was trapped inside a three-storey house in Tral’s Dadsara area on Thursday afternoon, was found near the encounter site on Friday morning. The firing had stopped on Thursday night and the combing operation was suspended in the first light of the dawn, an official said.
Describing it “a major success”, the police said one AK-47 and one grenade launcher were recovered from the encounter site.
The house where Musa was holed up was completely destroyed in the fire-fight. Police sources said Musa refused to surrender and lobbed grenades when encircled by security forces on Thursday.
Hundreds of local youth defied curfew and reached Tral’s Noorpora, Musa’s home town.
Hailing from a well-off middle class family, Musa’s father is a senior government official, his brother is a doctor, and his sister is a banker. The news of his killing fuelled nocturnal protests in many parts of the Valley, with youth burning tyres and raising pro-Musa slogans.
The authorities on Friday set up barricades on all major roads in Pulwama, capital Srinagar and Anantnag to contain protests. No vehicles were allowed on many stretches. Concertina wires were set up to seal all volatile pockets in the Valley. Educational institutions were closed for the day and all examinations in the Kashmir valley were postponed. Mobile internet was also slowed down as a precautionary measure.
Differences with Hurriyat
Musa replaced slain militant ‘commander’ Burhan Wani in 2016 but quit the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HuM) on May 13 in 2017 after developing differences over the modus operandi adopted by the latter. He later threatened to punish Hurriyat leaders for “being soft” and “un-Islamic in their approach”, driving a wedge between his Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK)-based United Jehad Council, headed by Syed Salahuddin.
In 2017, Musa’s name first appeared in an Arabic publication close to the Al-Qaeda. Later, the Al-Qaeda formally announced establishment of a new Kashmir-based terror group Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, headed by Musa. In between, Musa was also seen as being close to the Islamic State by the security agencies, and the brain behind unfurling of black IS flags in Srinagar. The Global Islamic Media Front, the online propaganda distribution arm of Al-Qaeda, has also mentioned Musa’s name.
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