Two top Hizbul Mujahideen militants, including a former policeman, were killed in an early morning operation in Shopian district in South Kashmir on Thursday, sparking protests in Pulwama, where an angry crowd “hijacked” a bulletproof police vehicle which was carrying one of the bodies and set it on fire.
The two militants have been identified as Naseer Ahmad Pandit, 30, who was earlier a policeman, and Anam-ul-Haq alias Waseem Malla, who was in his twenties. Both were reported to be close associates of Hizbul Mujahideen’s 21-year-old commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani. Naseer was one of the 11 militants who posed with Kalashnikovs in a photograph that was circulated on social media last year.
According to reports, a joint team of the army and police cordoned off Vehil village in Shopian district early on Thursday. The militants reportedly opened fire in an attempt to escape, but were gunned down in a field outside.
“In a major blow to terror outfits, the security forces gunned down two top Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists,” said an army spokesman. “It was a well- coordinated, swift and surgical operation based on specific information.”
The incident once again highlighted the growing support for militants in South Kashmir. People took to the streets in both Shopian and Pulwama. As the police vehicle carrying Naseer’s body reached Pulwama, the protesters seized control of the vehicle and drove it to Karimabad, about five kilometres away, where they set it on fire.
As Naseer’s body arrived in Karimabad, unidentified militants gave him a “21-gun salute”. Naseer’s funeral prayers were held four times as thousands of people turned up.
Similarly, at Pehlipora too, thousands of people turned up for Waseem’s funeral and three separate funeral prayers were held.
“Yes, a police vehicle has been set on fire,” said Pulwama SP Rayees Ahmad Mir. “It would not be appropriate to say it (vehicle) was hijacked. It was a huge crowd and policemen left to prevent any casualty”.
Naseer, who was earlier posted as former PDP minister Altaf Bukhari’s personal security officer, joined the militants in March last year, after decamping with two police rifles.
Waseem was the Hizbul’s district commander for Shopian and was active since 2012. While Waseem handled the operations in Shopian district, Naseer operated from Pulwama.