The commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s offshoot The Resistance Front (TRF) and his associate were killed in a police operation in Srinagar’s Aloochi Bagh area on Monday. Sporadic protests against the encounter broke out in Barzulla locality of Srinagar, where loudspeakers blared out pro-freedom slogans, according to eyewitnesses.
Kashmir inspector general of police (IGP) Vijay Kumar termed the encounter a “big victory” for the forces, who carried out the operation “extraordinarily”. “Top commander of #proscribed #terror outfit LeT/TRF Abbas Sheikh & his 2IC Saqib Manzoor killed. A big #success: IGP Kashmir,” the J&K Police tweeted.
“Ten policemen in civvies surrounded the area and challenged the militants, who opened fire. In the retaliatory firing, both the militants were killed,” Kumar told reporters.
The militants were identified as Mohammad Abbas Sheikh, the commander-in-chief of TRF, and his second-in-command Saqib Manzoor, a resident of Srinagar. According to Kumar, the duo was responsible for reviving militancy in Srinagar. “Two TRF members were killed last month. And today, Abbas and Saqib were killed.”
According to police records, Sheikh had joined militancy in August last year while Abbas had rejoined militancy in the year 2015 and had been active since – mostly in South Kashmir areas. Both Sheikh, who was in the late 40s, and Manzoor were on the list of most-wanted militants issued by the police in March. The police had sounded an alarm about the Sheikh’s presence in Srinagar based on intelligence inputs.
Sheikh, a resident of Rampur village of Koimoh area, Kulgam, took over the reins of TRF since its formation more than a year ago. Though TRF claims to be an indigenous group in its online propaganda, the police consider it as an LeT offshoot.
Abbas was arrested in 2013 on charges of attempting to revive militancy in south Kashmir. Subsequently, he distanced himself from militancy— which was at its lowest ebb with only 16 reported recruits and less than 100 active militants in 2013. Two years later, Abbas again joined the Hizbul Mujahideen, whose ranks and influence had considerably surged.
Sheikh left Hizbul after a “disagreement” over certain operational issues to join TRF, according to the security establishment. Over the years, he emerged as a significant figure in south Kashmir being one of the oldest surviving militants in the region.
Several family members of Sheikh, including his close relatives, had joined militancy and almost all of them were killed in the last three decades. His nephew Tawseef Sheikh was killed in May 2018. Sheikh’s sister and Tawseef’s mother Naseema Banoo (50) was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967, on charges of recruiting for militant groups.