A MILITANT ‘commander’, who is reported to be the Islamic State’s (IS) first recruit in the Valley, was killed with two other militants in an encounter in Anantnag, South Kashmir, on Sunday night.
While police said they did not know if Mohammad Eisa Fazili (22) had joined the IS, they confirmed his involvement in the killing of a policeman in Soura, in Srinagar, on February 25. The IS had claimed credit for the attack the next day, through its news agency Amaq. “Assassinated an element of police in firing near city of Srinagar in Kashmir yesterday,” it had said.
According to sources, police cordoned off Hakoora village in Anantnag on Sunday night, after they received intelligence inputs about the presence of militants. The three militants — Fazili, his classmate and friend Syed Owais Shafi, 22, and a ‘foreigner’ — reportedly came out of the house where they were hiding and opened fire as they tried to break the security cordon. They were killed in retaliatory fire.
Fazili, a resident of Soura, was a B.Tech. student at the Baba Ghulam Shah Badshah (BGSB) University in Rajouri before he joined militant ranks on August 17 last year.
“He (Fazili) first joined the Tehreek-ul-Mujahideen and then there were some reports on social media that he had joined the IS,” Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir S P Pani told The Indian Express. “But as far as we know, he was involved in an incident at Soura (in which a policeman was killed) and was eliminated in a swift operation last night,” he said.
A senior police officer said Fazili was initially close to a group of militants led by Zakir Musa. “But when Zakir Musa announced the setting-up of Ansar Ghazwatul Hind, an al Qaeda affiliate in Kashmir, Fazili had differences with him as he was more inclined towards the Islamic State,” said the officer.
While the IS first claimed credit for the Soura attack on a closed Telegram channel, ‘Al Qaraar’, the J&K Police had ruled out the presence of the IS in the Valley and said it could be a “lone wolf” attack.
Shafi, the second local militant killed in the encounter, was also studying engineering before he joined militancy in August last year, according to police sources.
Meanwhile, thousands of people attended Fazili’s funeral in Srinagar on Monday.