1. Zakir Musa: al-Qaida
The man is on top of the forces’ list. After his split from Hizbul, he launched the Kashmir chapter — Ansar Ghazwat-ul Hind — of al-Qaida. In a very short span, Musa’s become intensely popular not just among Valley’s youth but among cadres of other Militant groups also. Many militants, including the once chief of Lashkar’s operations in Kashmir – Abu Dujana, have joined him at various stages, and possibly lent him help in the form of weapons and ground network support.
He’s considered quite dangerous because he’s been using propaganda to call for an Islamic caliphate in Kashmir and throughout India, an ideology that’s rapidly gaining ground in the Valley.
2. Riyaz Naikoo: Hizbul Mujahideen
The chief of Hizbul Mujahideen, Naikoo, and an ‘A++’ category militant, Naikoo at 29, is one of the most experienced Hizbul commanders and at present its head of operations in Kashmir. He took over from Yaseen Ittoo after his death in an encounter last month. Naikoo, who is from Durbug, Awantipora, is considered tech savvy. He is considered to be a moderate among the Hizbul militants. In a recent, militant funeral he appeared in public to counter Zakir Musa’s anti-Pakistan propaganda and tried to whip-up support for Pakistan.
He has been booked by police in several murder cases including that of policemen. To bolster his moderate image he had earlier during the year also released an 11-minute video asking Kashmiri Pandits to return to the Valley. Naikoo overlooks at the massive Over Ground Worker (OGW) support for Hizb, which the oldest Militant group in the valley.
3. Saddam Padder: Hizbul Mujahideen
Remember the group photograph shared by slain Hizb commander Burhan Wani? Padder is now the only active militant of the 12 men shown in the picture. Apart from Padder, only Tariq Pandit, who featured in that photograph, is alive as he had surrendered.
Padder also comes from a family of farmers. Not much is known about Padder, except the fact that Hizbul thinks highly of him. Padder is a school dropout who joined militancy about 4-5 years ago. He was with LeT until he joined Hizbul in 2015. After Musa left as the chief of Hizb, Saddam Padder was one of the top contenders to be the next Hizb chief, a place later taken by Naikoo. While he might not be highly educated, he is considered a ‘clever’ militant and was among the few people whom Wani trusted.
4. Zeenat-ul-Islam: Lashkar-e-Toiba
The most likely person to take on Lashkar leadership in the Valley is Zeenat. The 28-year-old is a resident of Sugan Zanipura, Shopian, and was recruited in 2015. He is considered one of the main accused in the Shopian attack in February that left three soldiers dead. Known as an IED expert, he is a former member of Al-Badar Militant outfit.
He was once arrested in 2008 where he is said to have confessed to being an over ground worker (OGW). He was eventually released four years later and is said to have gotten married too before joining the Lashkar module.
5. Khalid: Jaish-e-Muhammad
Not much is known about JeM commander, whose code name is Khalid. He is believed to have trained and infiltrated from Pakistan and is active in north Kashmir’s Sopore area. Khalid is believed to have a hand behind the suicide attack on District Police Lines in south Kashmir district Pulwama a month ago, that killed four CRPF men and four policemen.
His name had cropped up for the first time in October 2016, when the Army busted a JeM module in Baramulla. Police officials had then said that the module, headed by Khalid, was responsible for the attack on an army convoy in Baramulla in August that year, which killed two Army men and one cop.