In what seems like a big blow to the terror outfit Hizbul Mujahideen in Kashmir, Burhan Wani’s successor, Yasin Yatoo, alias Mehmood Gaznavi, has been killed in an overnight gunfight with a joint team of the army, J&K police and CRPF in Kashmir’s troublesome Shopian district on Sunday.
The gunfight, which lasted more than 15 hours, claimed the lives of two jawans, who have been identified as Sepoy Gawai Sumedh Waman of Akola, Maharashtra and Sepoy Ilayaraja P from Sivagangai, Tamil Nadu. Apart from Yatoo, two of his close aides – identified as Umar Majeed and Sheikh Irfan-ul-Haq – have also been slain by the team.
Describing the encounter as a “very big success”, IG Muneer Khan (of Kashmir zone) said:
He was one of the top commanders active here. It was a difficult operation in a place surrounded by orchards and nullahs, but we were successful.
It must be noted here that 40-year-old Yatoo was named the commander of the home-grown militant outfit, Hizbul Mujahideen, after the death of their leader Burhan Wani in July 2016. His death had sparked terrible outrage, claiming the lives of more than 100 people, mostly innocent civilians, last year in the valley. Yatoo, who joined the militant outfit two decades ago, is the second important Hizbul Mujahideen member to be killed this year. Sabzar Bhat was killed earlier this year in May.
The gunfight started on Saturday and was suspended after midnight, only to be relaunched on Sunday morning. However, even as the cordon was being laid in attacking position, the team had to face immense resistance from the local villagers, who relentlessly pelted stones at the police.
Describing this encounter as being extremely difficult and perplexing, sources in the army have said that even as the soldiers were engulfed in a relentless gunfire battle with the militants, there was another group of militants who attacked the joint team from outside the perimeter:
This is for the first time in over a decade that militants from outside the site of the gunbattle have come to the help of their besieged associates.
A senior officer further said:
I have never seen militants firing from such close range. The soldier who was killed was just ten metres ahead of me.
In fact, according to sources in police, the continuous firing by militants, along with the relentless stone pelting by the locals, helped two important Hizbul commanders – Altaf and Saddam – escape along with several other terrorists:
The attack from outside was an attempt to help Ghaznavi escape but he could not break the cordon despite moving from one house to another. We have also recovered a Krinkov rifle.
However, it is absolutely undeniable that the death of their commander Yasin Yatoo is a big blow to Hizbul Mujahideen, especially at this point of time when it is trying hard to stall the rise of Zakir Musa, the breakaway militant who has set up Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, the first affiliate of Al Qaida in Kashmir.