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|Leaders||Muhammad Ahsan Dar (founder)|
Riyaz Naikoo (Chief in Valley)
|Dates of operation||1989–present|
|Headquarters||Muzaffarabad, Azad Kashmir|
|Designated as a terrorist group by|
|India, EU and US|
Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (Arabic: حزب المجاھدین, Ḥizb al-Mujāhidīn, meaning "Party of Holy Warriors" or "Party of Mujahideen") is a Kashmiri separatist militant organization founded by Muhammad Ahsan Dar in September 1989. The group has been designated as a terrorist group by India, the European Union and the United States, active in the state of Jammu and Kashmir since 1989. The current commander of the group is Sayeed Salahudeen.
Holding a pro-Pakistan ideology, the group is considered to be the largest indigenous militant group in Kashmir. In 1990 Muhammad Ahsan Dar had more than 10,000 armed men under his command. The group was designated as a foreign terrorist organisation by the United States State Department on 16 August 2017.
Eamon Murphy has alleged in his book The Making of Terrorism in Pakistan: Historical and Social Roots of Extremism that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) have provided training and funding to Hizb. However the book has been criticized for not containing accurate information. It has been reported by the Delhi-based Indian non profit organization Institute for Conflict Management that Jamaat-i-Islami founded Hizbul Mujahideen at the request of the ISI to counter the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front(JKLF) who are advocates for the independence of Kashmir.
Though Hizbul had no official support from Jamaat-e-Islami, several of its members and affiliates were among Hizbul's founders including its chief commander Muhammad Ahsan Dar. The expansion and growth in power of pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) worried both the Jamaat and Pakistan. In an attempt to counter it, Jamaat started taking over Hizbul Mujahideen which like it held a pro-Pakistan ideology and lacked sympathy for the Sufi-linked practices in Kashmir. Its takeover was done by placing its members in key positions of the group. By 1990, Dar declared Hizbul as the "sword arm of Jamaat". Yusuf Shah aka Sayeed Salahudeen who was a staunch Jamaati, gradually started taking over the leadership of Hizbul. Dar despite the Jamaat takeover had become increasingly independent and was opposed to Jamaat's plan to impose a shura-style council leadership which wanted a more collective and institutionalized leadership structure. He was expelled by Salahudeen loyalists in 1991 and formed his own group along with his loyalists, naming it as "Muslim Mujahideen". The group however quickly fell apart after his arrest in 1993.
Conflict with JKLF; purge of secessionist figures and groups
India and Pakistan started becoming more centrally involved in the conflict in the early 1990s, thus putting pressure on the militant groups. The pro-independence JKLF started weakening. Indian counterinsurgents removed much of its leadership, wiping out its central control, while Pakistan which had already started to abandon its support for it, pulled splinter factions away from the main organisation. By 1992-93, the independentist and secularist JKLF had yielded dominance to the pro-Pakistan and moderate Islamist Hizbul, which was strongly promoted by Pakistan's military authorities. The group rejected JKLF's nationalist agenda in favor of an Islamist one. What this meant was that it saw nothing incorrect in joining and thus strengthening Pakistan. After rejection of ISI's demands to drop its sovereignty plan, ISI shut JKLF camps and handed them over to Hizbul.
Hizbul targeted other groups, killing hundreds of their fighters while also neutralising and disarming more than 7,000 others. It began to systematically target JKLF, killing and intimidating its members, while spurring others to defect. As the dominant guerilla organization, JKLF bore the brunt of Indian counter-insurgency from 1990-92. Most of the more than 2,213 militants killed between 1990 and 1992 belonged to JKLF, with hundreds of its cadres also being captured. Hizbul was virulently opposed to JKLF, conducting attacks against the group and even helped Indian security forces to target its militants by providing intelligence. The first known clash occurred in April 1991 when Hizbul killed a JKLF commander. Further clashes kept occurring with killing of JKLF militants, which were seen more as "turf wars" rather than conflict over ideological disagreements. The intelligence provided by Hizbul to Indian forces helped in eliminating much of the group's 300-strong surviving cadre. JKLF tried to regain its dominance but caved in to pressure being exerted on it by Pakistan, Hizbul and Indian forces with Yasin Malik declaring a ceasefire in 1994, with Hizbul already having ascended to dominance by 1993.
Hizbul also mysteriously murdered several of the pro-independence intelligenstia with JKLF leanings. Some of these killings included Hriday Nath Wanchoo, a Kashmiri Pandit human rights advocate. Hizbul militant Ashiq Hussain Faktoo was convicted for his killing. Other prominent killings included Dr. Abdul Ahad Guru who was a cardiologist and JKLF ideologue, Mirwaiz Qazi Nisar and Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq, Mohammed Maqbool Malik, Prof. Abdul Ahad Wani, Muhammad Sultan Bhat, Abdul Ghani Lone, and Abdul Majeed Dar.
Divisions in the 1990s, Ceasefire of 2000
In 1991, after the merger with the Tahreek-e-Jihad-e-Islami (TJI), the strength of the Hizbul had reached 10,000. In the following years, rivalries developed within the Hizb, culminating in a killing of 21 people in a Pakistan administered Kashmir(AK), village near the border in 1998.
By the late 1990s, several voices within the Hizb including its operational commander Abdul Majeed Dar sought a return to more peaceful approaches. In July 2000, Dar, along with four other Hizb commanders, made a surprise unilateral ceasefire declaration from the outskirts of Srinagar. The ceasefire was immediately ratified by the Pakistan-based commander Sayeed Salahudeen, but was criticized strongly in the Pakistan media. It was withdrawn by Salahudeen by September. In 2002, Dar was denounced as an agent of the Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). He was expelled from the Hizb along with four divisional commanders.
The ceasefire move, its immediate endorsement and subsequent withdrawal highlighted deep divisions between the more hawkish operatives in Azad Kashmir and those based in India.
Death of Burhan Wani and protests in Kashmir
On 8 July 2016, prominent militant and Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Muzaffar Wani, was shot dead by Indian security forces. More than 50,000 people joined his funeral procession and there were mass protests in the Kashmir valley.
Under Sabzar Bhat (2016–2017)
Wani was succeeded by Sabzar Bhat, who had previously been a close aide of his. Indian security forces considered Bhat effective at using social media to recruit youth towards militancy. Indian security forces previously located him in Rathsuna, in March 2017, but he was able to evade them after a 15-hour gunfight that left one policeman dead.
Bhat was killed in May 2017, and subsequently buried in Pulwama. His death sparked clashes and a police-imposed curfew, during which a youth was killed in clashes with the Central Reserve Police Force. Internet and phone service across Kashmir was suspended in an attempt to calm the region.
A previously-unknown militant group, Mujahideen Taliban-e-Kashmir, claimed it had provided information on Bhat to security forces. The claim remains unverified, though some analysts suggested it reflected a growing schism between various militant groups in Kashmir, with members of Hizbul Mujahideen concerned that Zakir Musa may have betrayed Bhat.
Current Status (2017 onwards)
Riyaz Naikoo is the current Hizbul Mujahideen Chief in Kashmir Valley. Riyaz Naikoo is categorised as A++ in the security force's list of Top Militant Commanders in Valley. Both Naikoo and Kulgam area commander Altaf Kachroo carry a Bounty of ₹1.2 Million each for information leading to the arrest. The list includes two categories A and A++. He is reported to be one of the most dreaded Hizbul commanders operating in Kashmir. Naikoo has promoted Pakistani propaganda and is a supporter of Pakistan in Kashmir. He has involvement in several murder cases, including murder of policemen. Naikoo has also released many videos threatening informers and local police men to stay away from anti militancy operations. Naikoo is reported to have massive support of Over Ground Worker (OGW) of Hizbul.
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- Zakir Rashid Bhat
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The treatment is often superficial and filled both with loosely worded assessments and surprising errors (Musharraf's Prime Minister, for example, was Shaukat Aziz, not Shaukat Ali.)
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The killing of Wani’s successor, Sabzar Bhat, on May 27, 2017, threatens to further stoke the fire raging since the April 9, 2017 by-elections for a parliamentary seat. On May 27, 2017, separatists announced three days of strike and protests to mourn Bhat’s death while the police imposed curfew to prevent people from gathering. Yet, clashes took place between protesters and personnel of the state police and the Central Reserve Police Force resulting in the killing of a youth and injuries to 70 others.
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The security forces pointed out that 26-year-old Ahmad, a resident of Ruthsana village in Tral, was the brain behind utilising social media as a tool to attract young boys towards militancy. He was marked as an 'A-category' militant.
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Intelligence Bureau officials tell OneIndia that like Wani, this person too was a social media tiger. The youth of Kashmir unnecessarily get carried away by such people who make a pomp and show on the social media. This is just a strategy on their part to attract the youth into their fold, the official also added.
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Sabzar Ahmad Bhat alias 'SAB DON', son of Ghulam Hassan Bhat, resident of Ruthsana in Tral, is believed to be the brain behind the use of social media as weapon among terrorist groups for last two years in Kashmir.
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Hizbul Mujahideen militant Sabzar Ahmad Bhat was buried in his village in Pulwama on Sunday morning, a day after the 27-year-old was killed in a gun fight with security forces in south Kashmir.
- Parvaiz, Athr (30 May 2017). "Since July 2016, Kashmir's schools and colleges stayed shut on 60% of working days". Hindustan Times.
The killing of Wani’s successor, Sabzar Bhat, on May 27, 2017, threatens to further stoke the fire raging since the April 9, 2017 by-elections for a parliamentary seat. On May 27, 2017, separatists announced three days of strike and protests to mourn Bhat’s death while the police imposed curfew to prevent people from gathering. Yet, clashes took place between protesters and personnel of he state police and the Central Reserve Police Force resulting in the killing of a youth and injuries to 70 others.
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Internet services were suspended across Kashmir after Sabzar Ahmad Bhat, who has succeeded Burhan Wani, was killed in south Kashmir's Tral on Saturday.
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The Government of Jammu and Kashmir snapped the mobile internet( 2G, 3G and 4G) services in Kashmir fearing law and order problems, especially after the killing of top Hizbul Mujahedeen commander Sabzar Bhat in Tral encounter on Saturday. It has not even been 24 hours since the social media sites and applications including Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter were restored in Kashmir Valley.
- Rashid, Toufiq (1 June 2017). "J-K: Unknown militant group claims to have killed Hizb commander Sabzar Bhat". Hindustan Times.
The group – which identified itself as Mujahideen Taliban-e-Kashmir – said they provided information on Bhat to security forces because “he was coming in the way of Kashmir’s Islamic struggle”. A video that surfaced on the social media on Wednesday showed an armed masked man swearing allegiance to former HM commander Zakir Musa in his quest to “turn Kashmir into an Islamic state”. Another clip posted on Thursday showed three masked men telling both militants and Kashmiri citizens to follow Musa unless they wanted to face the same fate as Bhat. “We provided information on the militants in Arampora, and we will continue to do so if anybody comes in our way,” one of them said. “Sabzar got what he deserved, and we don’t care who becomes the new chief.”
- "Local Miliant Group Claims It Informed Police About Hizb Commander Sabzar Bhat's Whereabout". Outlook. 2 June 2017.
Hizbul Mujahideen commander and slain militant Burhan Wani's successor Sabzar Bhat's killing in Tral encounter has only exposed the widening schism between the militant groups in the valley.
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Radio and mobile chatter intercepted by India's intelligence agencies reflect a high level of distrust between former Hizbul commander Zakir Musa and the terror outfit he had led till recently. In the aftermath of the encounter killing of Burhan Wani's successor Sabzar Bhatt, Indian agencies have recorded multiple conversations where Hizbul Mujahideen cadre can be heard discussing whether Zakir Musa betrayed Sabzar Bhatt. Hizbul terrorists seem to suspect that a personal messenger close to Musa tipped off the Jammu and Kashmir police about the location of Sabzar's hideout. Sabzar was killed last week in an encounter very close to his hometown of Tral.
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