One of Kashmir's most-wanted terrorists, Hizbul Mujahideen commander Riyaz Naikoo, was killed along with an aide in a five-hour gunbattle with security forces at his native Baighpora in Pulwama district, bringing the curtain down on an eight-year run that saw him go from a mathematics teacher to a terror mastermind with a Rs12,00,000 bounty on his head.
As news of Naikoo's death spread, the Union Territory administration again suspended mobile internet across the Valley and voice communication over all networks barring that of BSNL. Incidents of stone-pelting at security forces was reported in parts of south Kashmir and downtown Srinagar.
Naikoo and his aide, identified as Adil, were eliminated within hours of security forces killing two Lashkar-e-Taiba men in a separate operation at a nearby village, capping a relentless offensive against terror outfits since the May 3 Handwara encounter in which eight security personnel, including two Army officers – Colonel Ashutosh Sharma and Major Anuj Sood – were killed in action.
Known for doing a Houdini act every time security forces cornered him, Naikoo had been holed up in a concrete hideout at Baighpora, when a joint team of the Army's 50 Rashtriya Rifles, CRPF's 185 Bn and police started an operation to flush out the two Lashkar terrorists from Shaar Shali village of Khrew, also in Pulwama district.
A senior official of J&K police said there was a tip-off about Naikoo visiting Baighpora, less than 10km from Khrew, to see his ailing mother Zeba even as security forces were engaged in an encounter with the Lashkar terrorists.
"Around 3 am on Wednesday, a separate team of J&K Police, the Army's 55 Rashtriya Rifles and CRPF reached Baighpora and was immediately greeted with a volley of gunfire. After a five-hour exchange of fire, Naikoo was shot dead. His aide ran into a concrete bunker that was later destroyed with explosives,” a police official said.