Srinagar, May 27: Hizbul Mujahideen commander Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, who had succeeded Burhan Wani as the militant outfit’s chief, was among two terrorists gunned down during an hours-long encounter in Tral area of south Kashmir, Army sources told Media Sources.
Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Sabzar Bhat who succeeded slain militant, leader Burhan Wani, was killed on Saturday along with another militant in a gunfight with security forces in Pulwama that triggered protests in the Kashmir Valley.
Director General of Police (DGP), S.P. Vaid confirmed Bhat’s death.
Bhat alias Abu Zarar had succeeded Wani who was killed on July 8 last year in a security operation in Anantnag.
Bhat carried a bounty of Rs 10 lakh on his head and was at the top of the security forces’ wanted list.
Massive protests erupted at many places in south, central and north Kashmir following Bhat’s killing in the gunfight in Saimoh village.
Markets were shut in Anantnag, Pulwama and Shopian towns immediately after news about the killing spread. Internet services have been snapped to avoid rumour mongering. Authorities had only on Friday evening lifted a ban on social media that was imposed in April.
Students of a polytechnic institute and a college in Srinagar started pelting stones at police while a protest was underway in Nowhatta.
Authorities are taking steps to ensure that the killing of the Hizbul commander does not flare up into any major law and order situation.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti will hold a high level security meeting in Srinagar to ensure that law and order is maintained and protests are contained without any civilian casualties, sources said.
While Bhat and another militant were killed, search operations were on for the third militant.
Both Wani and Bhat belonged to the Tral area. Bhat was one of the 11 people in one of the earliest photos of Burhan Wani along with his associates. He was understood to have been the one who was appointed to replace Wani in Hizbul Mujahideen.
The Director General of Jammu and Kashmir police, SP Vaid, talking to News18 on phone about the encounter said, “He is definitely there. His presence has been confirmed. But we will declare him dead only after all the operations are over.”
Ever since Burhan Wani was killed by security forces in July last year, Bhat had been heading the Hizbul Mujahudeen. The militant, also known as ‘Sab Don’, has featured in videos and photos that have been circulated by the group.
Bhat, categorised as an A++ militant in Kashmir, reportedly turned to militancy after the family of a girl he loved spurned his marriage proposal and ended the relationship.
A childhood friend of Burhan Wani, the militant became an important member of the terrorist organisation when he managed to snatch a rifle from an armed forces officer during the protests that erupted when Burhan Wani elder’s brother, Khalid, was killed.
Soon after Bhat was reported killed on Saturday, stone pelting started at five different areas of Anantnag district.