The chief of al-Qaeda-affiliated Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, Zakir Rashid Bhat alias Musa, 25, was killed in an operation by security forces in Pulwama’s Tral on Thursday.
A police official said Musa was trapped during a cordon and search operation in Dadsara village.
“We had a very specific input about his presence in the area. He was asked to surrender. However, he lobbed grenades. In the shootout, Musa and his associate were killed,” the official said.
Following the operation, authorities decided to close all educational institutes on Friday as a precautionary measure.
The police said the cadre of Musa was dwindling fast, “as around one dozen local youth who joined him in the last two years were either killed or arrested”.
The group received a major setback on December 12 last year when six of his associates were killed in an encounter in Tral, forcing Musa to go into hiding. There were unconfirmed reports that he was sighted in Punjab’s Ludhiana district.
Youth stage protests
Hundreds of youth protested in parts of Srinagar, Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam against the killing of Musa. Authorities suspended Internet access across the Valley.
Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan said restrictions would be imposed on the movement of people and vehicles in volatile pockets of the old city in Srinagar on Friday “to contain any street protests”.
Musa replaced slain Hizbul Mujahideen militant ‘commander’ Burhan Wani in 2016 but quit the outfit 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”.
In 2017, Musa’s name first appeared in an Arabic publication close to al-Qaeda.
Later, the al-Qaeda announced the establishment of a new Kashmir-based terror group Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind headed by Musa.