Zakir Rashid Bhat, popularly known as Zakir Musa, has been killed in the early morning hours on Friday after joint Indian forces, working on a special intelligence tip, gunned him down near his house in the Tral area of Pulwama, south Kashmir, multiple government sources have confirmed.
Zakir Musa was the chief of Ansar Ghazwatul Hind, an al-Qaeda allied group fighting against the Indian state in Jammu and Kashmir.
A gunfight initially broke out between militants and Indian security forces at Dadsara village in the Tral area of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district late Thursday evening which turned into an operation that last for nearly 11 hours. A joint team of the Indian Army’s 42 RR, Special Operations Group of J&K Police and the paramilitary company CRPF cordoned off the village and launched a hunt for Musa.
According to local police officials, Zakir Musa was initially told to surrender but he fired UBGL grenades on the security forces, after which an operation to kill him was launched.
Musa was a former commander of pro-Pakistan Hizbul Mujahideen (HuM) group since 2013 while pursuing engineering from a college in Punjab. Later he founded his own group Ansar Ghazwatul Hind, an affiliate of al-Qaeda.
Musa’s disagreements with his previous group HuM included his radical beliefs as well as his view that the conflict of Kashmir is a religious one, instead of a political one.
In July 2017, al-Qaeda announced the establishment of its unit in Jammu and Kashmir, naming Musa as its chief.
According to government sources, the house where he was hiding was burned down but he managed to escape before that and was killed a distance away in an open field. His body has been recovered.
According to local police sources, one AK-47 rifle and one rocket launcher were recovered from under the debris of the house where Musa was trapped.
Protests by locals against India broke out in the area following the news of Musa’s death.
Earlier, internet services had been shut in most parts of south Kashmir. Local administration has announced that all educational institutions in the Kashmir Valley will also remain shut on Friday in anticipation of riots.
In August 2017, Musa had reportedly evaded an anti-terror operation with the help of locals, pelting security forces with stones in Noorpora village of Tral.