Hizbul Mujahideen militant commander Saifullah Mir was killed in an encounter with security forces on the outskirts of Srinagar district Sunday.
Mir, 31, also known as Dr Saifullah, had only taken over the reins of the militant outfit in May after his predecessor, Riyaz Naikoo, was killed in a gunbattle at his native village of Beighpora in Pulwama district.
“We had received inputs about the presence of two militants at a residence in the Rangreth area,” said a senior officer of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). “The area was cordoned off and the two men were asked to surrender. In response, they fired upon the security forces. Dr Saifullah was killed after an exchange of fire. His associate was subsequently taken into custody.”
Mir, a resident of Pulwama’s Malangpora village, has a diploma degree in medical electronics from the Industrial Training Institute in Pulwama and another from the National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology in Srinagar. His knowledge of medical technology had earned him the nickname “Doctor”, a senior police officer said.
In 2014, Mir joined militant ranks and operated under slain commander Burhan Wani. Mir also figured in one of the group pictures of Wani and his associates that went viral in social media.
“He maintained a low profile both before becoming a commander and after,” said the senior officer quoted above. “After the killing of Riyaz Naikoo, he had only released a couple of audio notes to address people, which was in contrast to his predecessors who were more active in using social media to further their goals.”
According to police sources, two men who are likely to take over from Mir include Mohammad Ashraf Khan also known as Ashraf Molvi, among the senior-most militant commanders in Kashmir and of Hizbul Mujahideen.
The second name, the officer quoted above said, is of Zubair Wani (31), who joined militant ranks in April 2018. Wani’s style of operations, police sources say, is closer to Naikoo’s when it comes to targeting political workers or police officials. The 31-year-old has a masters degree in Political Science from Bhopal and Masters in Philosophy (M Phil) from Rajasthan.