Following the killing of Abu Ismail, Lashkar-e-Taiba’s operational commander in Kashmir, in an encounter at Aaribagh last week, police officials said the terror outfit is likely to nominate local commander Zeenat-ul-islam as the new operational chief. Zeenat-ul-Islam is from south Kashmir and is operating in the region with another commander Waseem Shah after two commanders, Junaid Mattoo and Bashir Ahmad Wani alias Lashkari, were killed in separate encounters.
The names of Zeenat-ul-Islam and Waseem Shah figured in the Army’s list of 12 top militant commanders active in south Kashmir, issued in May this year. “There is every possibility that Zeenat-ul-Islam is named successor of Abu Ismail. He is based in south Kashmir and is currently one of the Lashkar’s top commanders in the region,’’ a senior police officer said. The officer, however, said there was also a chance of Waseem being named the operational commander.
Another top officer said that while Lashkar is known to prefer foreign militants to command the outfit in the Valley, this time there is no senior foreign militant capable of leading the group. “As such, they would be looking at local options. In that case, Zeenat and Waseem would be top choices,’’ he said. Since 2015, all three LeT operational commanders based in south Kashmir have been foreign militants. Qasim, Abu Dujana and Abu Ismail were killed in encounters. A resident of Sugan village in Zanipora, 29-year-old Zeenat-ul-Islam joined Lashkar in 2015.