Last week when an unidentified man walked into the office of a Vodafone showroom at Karan Nagar in the city and asked employees and customers at the showroom to vacate the place immediately. Within seconds, an explosion took place damaging the office. After 15 minutes few hundred yards away, an Aircel showroom was also attacked. Three hours later, unidentified men hurled a grenade at the mobile tower at Saheed Gunj locality, injuring two civilians.
Three militancy related incidents within a span of four hours in the Srinagar district where no militant is present in the police records, were sufficient for the investigating agencies to point fingers towards a newly formed group – Lashkar e- Islam that has threatened mobile tower owners and mobile companies to close their business.
And the man behind this new outfit is 41-year-old Abdul Qayoom Najar who was expelled by Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin on Thursday blaming him in playing a key role in murdering innocent persons and indulging in character assassination of Hurriyat leaders and attacks on the telecommunication set-up in the Valley.
For years Najar, one of the most wanted militants of North Kashmir has kept the police and the army on toes. Three weeks ago the security establishment was close to nabbing him at Delina, a picturesque village on Srinagar – Baramulla national highway, but again he managed to give slip to them though they kept searching the area for 12 hours.
Najar came to the limelight after the attacks on mobile towers and killings of six civilians in Sopore and its adjacent villages. Though the Hizbul Mujahideen had been blaming the Indian agencies for these attacks, however, police officials were convinced that these killings and attacks are the handiwork of Najar and his associate Imtiyaz Kundoo.
Last month the police announced a reward of rupees 10 lakhs for information leading to the arrest of Najar. Since police had no picture of him, so they pasted picture of a shopkeeper claiming it to be Najar.
Najar, the longest surviving militant, was one of the top commanders of Hizbul Mujahideen. A resident of Sopore town, he joined militancy barely at an age of 16. He was arrested in 1992 and later released. After his release, Najar recycled into the militancy in 1995. Though for many years, Najar was a militant, but he always aspired to become a top commander after killing and arrest of top Hizbul commanders, Najar was the senior most active commander and thus the de-facto operational chief of Hizb.
Officers say that he keeps on changing his appearance and the police has even reports that he uses wigs and moves around meekly.
“He doesn’t trust anyone and has even created fear among those who helped him. He doesn’t use modern gadgets like mobile phones or telephone,’’ says a top police officer who has been involved in the operation to track him. “We don’t even have his photograph.’’
Investigating agencies say the relation between Najar and Hizbul Mujahideen Chief Syed Salahudin soared from last September after he demanded more money for running the militant operations in the Valley.
“This is one of the issues of the discord between Hizb leadership and Najar. There were other problems as well,” he said.
Officials say that Najar was also unhappy as the Hizb high command had shifted their focus to the boys operating in Tral instead of his cadres.
The things came to a flashpoint in May, when Najar and his close associate Imtiyaz Kundoo threatened mobile operators to close their business in Sopore town and even started killing people including a local Hurriyat leader Sheikh Altaf ur Rehma who had served many years in jail for supporting militancy, though UJC had blamed agencies for the attacks they had hinted that they know the people behind the attacks.
Hurriyat chairman Syed Ali Geelani and United Jihad Council headed by Syed Salahudin termed it as a handiwork of Indian agencies and asked people related to mobile business to continue their business.
At that time hitherto unknown Lashkar- e-Islam posters surfaced in the town considered as the support base of Geelani. The posters even targeted Hurriyat leaders and blamed them for in league with intelligence agencies and responsible for killing of some militant commanders.
The officials say that Najar didn’t like intervention from Hurriyat leaders in militancy as he feels his writ is being challenged by the separatist leadership.
After Majid Dar this was the first time in the recent past that any top commander had challenged its leadership based in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and also targeted Geelani, the ideologue of Hizbul Mujahideen.
Police sources say that Najar has been able to build a small closed group of militant’s sympathizers who help him in carrying out his activities. And recently, his area of operation has spread over to Pattan, Baramulla, Handwara and even there are reports that Najar and his boys have managed to penetrate into the city and the series of attacks in the city after a long time could be a signal to Hizb and separatist leadership that he can’t be ignored.