Burhan Wani, Hizbul poster boy, killed in encounter

Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani had become a poster boy of the Valley’s militancy.

July 08, 2016 08:57 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 10:46 pm IST - Srinagar

Screenshot from a video of Burhan Wani, commander of terror group Hizbul Mujahideen.

Screenshot from a video of Burhan Wani, commander of terror group Hizbul Mujahideen.

Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani (22), the architect of the social-media driven psychological warfare in Kashmir, was killed along with two other militants in an encounter in Anantnag district on Friday evening.

Described by security agencies as “the biggest-ever success” in recent times, Wani, who carried a reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head, was tracked after a tip-off that he was planning to come down from the Tral forest area for Eid celebrations.

Wani and his two local associates were cornered by security forces in Kokernag area and killed in an encounter. The militants hurled grenades and opened fire in a bid to escape, but the house where they were holed up was bombed killing all three, police sources said.

Director General of Police (DGP) K. Rajendra confirmed that Wani was among the three militants killed in the joint operation of the Army and the counter-insurgency cells of Srinagar and Anantnag districts.

The news of Wani’s death triggered protests across the Valley. Hundreds of people assembled in Tral, Wani’s hometown, on Friday evening to participate in his funeral prayers. Several others performed funeral in absentia in south, central and north Kashmir.

A senior police officer said several security forces’ installations were attacked in south Kashmir and protesters were injured in late night clashes.

Curfew-like restrictions

Fearing more violence, the State government has imposed curfew-like restrictions in Srinagar, Pulwama, Anantnag, Shopian, Sopore, Kupwara and Kulgam.

Internet services have been snapped across the Valley and all top-ranking separatist leaders placed under house arrest.

Top police sources told The Hindu that Wani, who joined the militancy in 2010, had remained elusive because of his “tremendous following” online and on the ground.

“Every time an operation was launched against Wani, our movement was reported to him by his huge network of young supporters and fans,” said a top police officer.

Wani, the face of new-age militancy in Kashmir, played a key role in making Hizbul Mujahideen stronger than the Lashkar-e-Taiba in the Valley. “Since 2010, he must have influenced more than 60 youths in south Kashmir to join militancy. He received training locally without crossing into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir,” said a police source.

Fan following

His fan following forced the Hizbul to own him in 2011 and declare him one of their commanders. Most of Wani’s recruits allegedly came from a middle-class background with good academic records. They would snatch weapons from policemen and receive training in orchards.

Wani waged psychological warfare by releasing videos and pictures online. A picture of him with 10 gun-toting local youths went viral last year and made him the poster boy of the Hizbul Mujahideen.

In his last video released in June, Wani was seen playing cricket with other militants.

Weeks before that, in another video, he pledged not to harm Amarnath pilgrims, but warned the local police of dire consequences.

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