The Hizbul Mujahideen named Mohammad bin Qasim its new commander in Kashmir on Monday, a day after Yaseen Yattoo alias Mehmood Ghaznavi was killed in an encounter with security forces in Shopian district. Qasim was elevated to the post during a command council meeting chaired by Syed Salahuddin (pictured above) in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, according to PTI.
“The meeting has decided to give the responsibility of operational commander to Mohammad Bin Qasim,” Hizbul Mujahideen chief spokesperson Saleem Hashmi said in a statement, according to The Indian Express. However, Qasim is not the real name of the new commander. He could be either Riyaz Naikoo, the outfit’s district commander of Pulwama, or Altaf Kachroo, commander of the outfit in Kulgam, reported the Hindustan Times.
Itoo or Ghaznavi was killed along with two other militants during a gunfight in Avneera village in South Kashmir’s Shopian district on Sunday. The other two were identified as Irfan ul Haq Sheikh and Umar Majid Sheikh, the police said. They, too, belonged to the Hizbul Mujahideen.
The police had said that the security forces were conducting a search operation in the area on Saturday night when the militants opened fire at them. The Army officers retaliated, and a gunfight ensued.
Itoo was named the commander by Salahuddin four days after Burhan Wani was gunned down on July 8, 2016. In its statement on Monday, the Hizbul Mujahideen added that such killings have not weakened the organisation. “Indian agencies thought that post-Wani’s death ... the struggle for independence has been weakened but each sacrifice of militants proves otherwise,’’ read the statement, according to the Hindustan Times.