India

Burhan Wani aide Zakir Musa killed in Pulwama encounter, tension in Kashmir

Burhan Wani aide Zakir Musa killed in Pulwama encounter, tension in Kashmir

A former Hizbul Mujahideen militant who was a close aide of slain militant Burhan Wani, Zakir Rashid Bhat, was killed in an overnight encounter in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district on Friday.

Zakir Bhat, who was also known as Zakir Musa, was one of the longest-surviving militants in Kashmir Valley and was head of Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind outfit. His death has now almost eliminated the Ansar outfit in the Valley, according to security officials. Zakir had claimed the group to be a local affiliate of the al-Qaeda.

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Calling the operation a “major success against terrorism in south Kashmir”, a Jammu and Kashmir Police spokesperson said Zakir was the only surviving militant of the “erstwhile Burhan (Wani) group”.

“He was active for the last six years and was involved several acts of terror,” the police said.

Following a cordon and search operation in Dadsara village of Tral, in Pulwama district, an encounter began shortly after 7 pm on Thursday, security officials said.

According to local residents, the operation continued for nearly 12 hours and ended Friday morning. “Firing started in the evening; security forces set the house (where Zakir was hiding) on fire around midnight. He (Zakir) was killed early Friday morning,” a Dadsara resident said.

Zakir was killed as soon he came out of the two-storey house. The body was found in a small orchard close to the compound, it was informed.

As the news spread, despite restrictions put up by the authorities many people from near and far arrived at Noorpora, a village close to Dadsara, where Zakir’s family lives. Clashes were reported from several parts of the Valley on Friday.

Late Thursday evening, soon after the encounter began, the police picked up the owner of the house where Zakir was hiding. The house owner, identified as Mudasir Ahmad, was in custody of the security forces throughout the night, according to his family members.

A close relative of Mudasir said: “Three women were in the house when the forces laid cordon. They had specific information that Zakir was hiding in the house. The family members (of Mudasir) were asked to leave the area and then the encounter began.”

At Zakir’s three-storey house, women continued to pour in on Friday to meet Zakir’s mother, Shahzada, to pay their condolences. Outside, people were headed towards the funeral ground.

Shahzada told The Indian Express, “I had not seen him since 2016. I was waiting to see him for last time now today, but I could not. They brought him for a very little time and took him away.”

Shahzada said they learnt about his death on Friday morning.

Zakir was studying at a Chandigarh college before he went missing in 2013 and joined the militant ranks.