SRINAGAR: Zubair Wani, an MPhil dropout from Dehradun College, has been named the new Hizbul Mujahideen chief in Kashmir after the killing of Saifullah Mir in an encounter last Sunday. In less than six months, Hizb has seen two new operational commanders. Earlier, Saifullah had taken over the terror group in Kashmir after Riyaz Naikoo was killed in May this year.
The 31-year-old Wani joined the outfit in 2018. His family lives in their native Dehruna village in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. Among five siblings, Wani is the only educated one.
Sources said Wani superseded Ashraf Moulvi alias Ashraf Khan — the seniormost among the present Hizb terrorists — to bag the position of the operational commander because Moulvi is suffering from a kidney ailment and has hinted at giving up militancy several times in the past. Moulvi, who is in his late forties, had picked up arms in 2013 and is an A++ terrorist. Considering his seniority and experience, he was expected to take over the outfit’s reins after Naikoo’s killing but Saifullah was made the commander in view of Moulvi’s ailment.
Even as security forces have successfully slain all major commanders of the proscribed outfit in back-to-back anti-terror operations, terror groups are continuously radicalizing youth in south Kashmir districts besides robbing cash from J&K Bank vans and branches to buy weapons to equip the new recruits, sources said.
Due to the efforts of security forces, misguided youth are surrendering and returning home even during ongoing encounters, J&K Police said. IGP (Kashmir Range) Vijay Kumar said surrender over death is being preferred in live encounters, while referring to the surrender of a local terrorist during an anti-terror operation in Pampore on Friday.