The bullet-riddled body of another Hizbul Mujahideen commander was recovered in north Kashmir on Saturday, the fourth to be found this week. The bodies of three men, all shot through the head, were found in an orchard in Shutz Dangerpora village in Pattan on Monday. The Hizb confirmed later that the dead men were its cadres.
Villagers found the body of Hizb militant Fayaz Ahmad Bhat in paddy fields at Devbugh village in Tangmarg on Saturday. Bhat was wearing Army fatigues, and the body had multiple gunshot wounds. The body has been sent for an autopsy.
Police said the killing appeared to be the fallout of rivalry between the Hizb and a breakaway group. “That is what it seems,” Inspector General of Police Javed Mujtaba Gilani told The Sunday Express. “It could be retaliation from the Lashkar-e-Islam.”
Bhat’s family, however, blamed the security forces. “It is the work of the STF (Special Task Force) and Army,” Bhat’s father Abdul Rehman Bhat said.
He further alleged that a police officer had recently called Bhat’s brother and one of Bhat’s sons to the police station.
Bhat, a resident of Vailoo village of Pattan, was the father of five children. He first joined militancy in 2002. He was arrested and released, and rejoined the militants two years ago.
Police had blamed Monday’s killings too on the rivalry between the Hizb and Lashkar-e-Islam, an outfit allegedly launched recently by former Hizb commander Abdul Qayoom Najar. The Hizb, however, denies the existence of the Lashkar-e-Islam, and has accused the security forces of killing its cadres. On Saturday, a Hizb spokesperson told a local news agency by phone that Bhat had been killed in an encounter with “Indian forces”.
“He was on a mission when the Army fired at him. He (Bhat) attained martyrdom during a brief gunfight. His associates escaped,” the spokesperson said. “He was a member of the Burhanuddin Sarhadi Squad, and had participated in many successful operations.” Soon after the recovery of Bhat’s body, villagers took to the streets, and clashed with police and paramilitary forces.