Operational Chief Commander of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Riyaz Naikoo and his associate were killed in a gunfight a joint team of police, army and CRPF at Beighpora area in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district, officials said on Wednesday. Official said said that a joint team of Police, army's 55 Rashtriya Rifles and CRPF had launched a search operation in Beighpora area, Naikoo’s hometown, late last night. As they zeroed in on particular house, they said, the militants opened fire which was retaliated, triggering off an encounter in which two militants including Naikoo and his aide Adil were killed.Inspector General of Police Kashmir Vijay Kumar ( IPS) confirmed to GNS the killing of Naikoo and his associate in the gunfight. The other slain militant was identified by a police officer as Adil Ahmad Bhat of Panjaran Villag.“The operation was launched last evening and contact was established with hiding (militants) in the morning today,” a police spokesman said in a statement issued here.The 35-year-old Naikoo had joined militant ranks in 2012. Naikoo, a former mathematics teacher at a private school, was one of the close aides of the popular Hizb commander Burhan Muzaffar Wani who was killed in Bumdoora village in Kokernag area of South Kashmir on 8 July 2016.
Naikoo who as per security establishment was working under code name Mohammad Bin Qasim become the operational chief commander of the Hizb after successor of Burhan Wani, Mohammad Yasin Itoo alias Mehmood Ghaznavi, was killed along with two of his associates in an 18-hour-long gunfight with joint team of police, army and CRPF at Awnira, Zainapora village in south Kashmir’s Shopian district in August 2017. Naikoo, who figured in the list of 12 most militants issued by the army in 2017 as also in the hit-list of 17 top militants issued by intelligence agencies in 2018, carried Rs 12 lakh on head being A++ category militant. In 2018, Naikoo-led Hizb militants kidnapped 11 family members of policemen prompting the police to release his father Asadullah Naikoo from their custody. The police had picked Asadullah from his Awantipora home in south Kashmir, a day after militants had killed four policemen in Shopian. Later, in an audio message, Riyaz had warned the police of dangerous consequences if the relatives of militants were not released.Meanwhile, sources said that Naikoo and Adil besides two other militants-- Adil Manzoor Wani Of Padgam Pora and Rafiq Ahmad Dar of Kerinibal Samboora—killed in a gunfight at Sharshali Khrew Pulwama were buried in presence of magistrate at Sonamarg Ganderbal. (GNS)