Prize catch and a few more
12 August 2001
Srinagar: The Hizbul Mujahideen stunned everybody with a ceasefire on July 24, 2000. The move brought Hizbul commanders and Home Secretary Kamal Pandey to the negotiations table. The talks went nowhere.
A year later, and on the same day, the Hizbul deputy chief commander Masood was felled. "This is the answer to our peace initiative. He was tortured to death in custody," said the Hizbul spokesman.
The special operations group (SOG) of police which claimed credit for eliminating Masood, said that the militant had opened fire after his arrest at Pampore near Srinagar. "He was being taken for an arms recovery," said Pulwama Vijay Kumar, Superintendent of Police, Operations. "At Pahoo village Masood fired at the police party and in retaliation he was killed."
"He was involved in a number of killings," said Inspector-General of Police Ashok Bhan. "He was also recruiting people." For the SOG, Masood was an A-category militant and a prize catch, but the killing has strained relations between the police and other security agencies.
"His killing is not a good development," said a senior paramilitary force officer. ""Even after the talks with the Centre failed, Masood had been sending strong vibes that he wanted peace."
Masood became Hizbul deputy chief after serving in various positions. A postgraduate in Islamic studies he authored two books, Paradise Turning Hell and Jihad Fillah (Jihad for Allah).
One fallout of his killing was that the Hizbul faction in Kashmir, led by Majid Dar, and the faction in Pakistan, led by Syed Salahuddin, have closed ranks again. Dar's faction had spun out of Salahuddin's control after last year's ceasefire. Security agencies were concerned that the killing will force a rethink among moderates in Hizbul. The Pak-based Hizbul vowed to avenge Masood's death and there were fears that the outfit might launch an attack soon.
The killing of the three Hizbul militants-Ghulam Mustafa Khan and associates Zahoor Ahmed and Farooq Ahmed-was another jolt to the outfit. They were killed after being trapped inside a shrine in Goigam village on July 29.
Khan was the youngest Hizbul trainee in a base camp in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir. He returned in the mid-90s and went on to head the Hizbul Task Force (HTF). Its mission was to win back the cadres who had left militancy and kill the counter-insurgents and security forces.