Riyaz Naikoo, one of Kashmir's most wanted terrorists and the commander of terror group Hizbul Mujahideen, was killed during an encounter in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama on Wednesday.
Riyaz Naikoo was killed during an anti-terrorist operation conducted by the Army and J&K Police in the Beighpura area of Pulwama district. A second terrorist, believed to be an accomplice of Naikoo, was also killed in the encounter.
Three separate anti-terror operations were launched on Wednesday morning in the south Kashmir area following after intelligence reports that Naikoo, 32, and other terrorists were hiding in a village.
As the encounters began at 9 am, mobile internet services were suspended in all 10 districts of Kashmir Valley. Mobile internet services remain suspended as authorities look to control any backlash from Naikoo's killing.
Riyaz Naikoo, a former teacher who had a bounty of Rs 12 lakh on his head, was a key target for India once he took charge of the Hizbul Mujahideen in Kashmir.
According to SP Vaid, former Director General of J&K Police, Naikoo was the most wanted terrorist after former Hizbul chief Burhan Wani, who was killed in an encounter in July 2016.
Naikoo was born in south Kashmir. A government report said he was a school teacher for two years, delivering lectures on Islamic topics, before becoming a terrorist in 2012. Wanted in 11 terror-related cases, he became "head of operations in Kashmir" after taking over from Yaseen Ittoo, a top terrorist killed in an encounter in September 2017.
Naikoo played a key role in using social media to indoctrinate and recruit young Kashmiri men into terrorism, as per the police. He was also involved in the killing of special police officers (SPOs).
A 2017 Intelligence Bureau report described Naikoo as "one of the most experienced Hizbul commanders", someone who was adept at using technology and covering his tracks and playing the role of facilitator and motivator.
Over the past month, at least 22 members of the country's security forces, including army officers, have been killed in the Kashmir Valley.
On Sunday two senior Army officers - a colonel and a major - were among five security personnel killed in action during an encounter in Handwara in J&K's Kupwara district. A sub-inspector and two soldiers also lost their lives.
On Monday, there was an attack on a CRPF (central reserve police force) team in the same area; three jawans were killed.
A spurt in terror attacks amid reports of infiltration by highly-trained terrorists from Pakistan, pose a major security challenge even as the country fights the COVID-19 crisis.