Reyaz Naikoo: From a maths teacher to a calculative Hizbul militant

Srinagar, May 6 (PTI) From a maths teacher to a calculative militant, Reyaz Naikoo had a lucky run for eight years before he was killed by security forces on Wednesday in a gun battle lasting five hours.

Life came full circle for the 35-year-old bespectacled de facto chief of banned terror outfit Hizbul Mujahideen as he was gunned down in the same village from where he had scripted his journey into militancy in 2012 after he was detained by security forces during the unrest of 2010.

Naikoo successfully evaded police for eight years when most cannot even manage for a year or a year-and-a-half.

He escaped the security dragnet several times before he lost the battle in his native village Beighpora, 40 km from here, on Wednesday afternoon.

His first 'daily diary' entry in police records at Awantipora, which is part of Pulwama district of south Kashmir, dates back to June 6, 2012, two weeks after he had disappeared from his home at Beighpora village.

From teaching mathematics, a subject he loved, at a private school to joining the militancy, Naikoo, who had 11 cases against him and carried a cash reward of Rs 12 lakh, was a loner as he seldom trusted anyone within his outfit, says a senior police officer.

Naikoo, who was also a tech savvy, kept himself away from the limelight and allowed slain Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani to take the centre stage after 2014.

Post Wani's elimination, he kept himself away from the internal politics of the terror group and allowed Sabzar Ahmed and later Zakir Musa to take over the reign of the outfit.

While Ahmed was neutralised within a few weeks after Wani's death in July 2016, Musa split from the Hizbul Mujahideen group and formed his own Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, an affiliate of Al-Qaeda, in 2017, leaving a vacuum in the terror group that was filled by Naikoo.

Naikoo was calculative in his operation and his next move was only known to him. Being a tech savvy, he never left any electronic trail about his movement, said the police official, who had been tracking him for several months.

The son of a farmer, Naikoo, completed his graduation from Government Degree College in Pulwama and started teaching in a private school before he was detained by security forces during the unrest of 2010 and released in 2012.

He was a changed man and after his release and in the third week of May 2012, he left his home and never returned there, till he shot into prominence in 2016 when he made a dramatic appearance at the funeral of a terrorist in Shopian carrying a Kalashnikov rifles.

There, he had fired several shots in the air, thus starting a trend of giving gun salute to militants who were killed in encounters with security forces.

His movements were generally noticed in Dogripora, Brawbandia, Banderpora, Litter, Chakoora and Chandgam, Renzipora along the axis of Awantipora to Shopian in south Kashmir.

Naikoo gave anxious moments to police in September 2018 when he picked up 11 relatives of police officers after his father was detained by police. He was subsequently released and so were the hostages, leaving the police officials red-faced.

He was often involved in promoting Pakistani propaganda and released many videos and audios threatening policemen, asking them to stay away from anti-militancy operations. PTI SKL AAR KJ