Thousands mourn ‘India’s most wanted’ al-Qaeda commander in Kashmir

Thousands mourn ‘India’s most wanted’ al-Qaeda commander a day after he was killed in shoot-out with troops in Kashmir

  • Zakir Musa killed Thursday in government counter-insurgency operation   
  • Musa headed the Al Qaeda affiliate Ansar Gazwatul Hind from mid-2017
  • Thousands turned out to attend the funeral despite a government curfew in area
  • Fatal shoot-out took place in southern Tral, Kashmir, India, at Musa’s home

Thousands of mourners flooded the streets of India today to attend the funeral of an al Qaida linked military commander named ‘India’s most wanted’- who was killed in a gunfight yesterday. 

Zakir Musa, a top militant commander linked to al Qaida, was killed on Thursday evening by government forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir during a counter-insurgency operation.  

The shoot-out took place in the southern Tral area of Kashmir after Musa refused to surrender and fired grenades at the troops after they zeroed in on his hideout in a civilian home, said police.

People carry the dead body of most wanted militant commander Zakir Rashid Bhat alias Zakir Musa, in south Kashmirs Noorpora area of Tral on May 24, 2019

Residents said troops destroyed the home using explosives, a common tactic by Indian forces in Kashmir. 

Musa’s killing triggered violent anti-India protests in many places with authorities imposing a curfew and cutting internet access to make organising anti-India protests difficult and discourage dissemination of protest videos.

The curfew remains in place across much of the Kashmir Valley, including in the main city of Srinagar, in anticipation of more protests and clashes as schools and colleges remain closed.

Mass protests and clashes broke out in many parts of Kashmir after the news of killing of militant commander Zakir Musa spread

A Kashmiri protestor wears a shirt depicting a picture of a militant commander Zakir Musa as he stands in front of a damaged house following a gun battle between the commander Zakir Musa of Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind group and Indian government forces at Dadsar village in Tral, south of Srinagar

Amid heavy rainfall people carry the dead body of most wanted militant commander Zakir Rashid Bhat alias Zakir Musa

Earlier today, thousands turned out to participate in Musa’s funeral despite heavy rain and the security lockdown.

Crowds of mourners gathered in Tral, Kashmir, paying their respects to the commander despite a government imposed curfew in the area. 

Musa joined Kashmir’s largest indigenous rebel group, Hizbul Mujahideen, in 2013 after dropping out of his engineering course.

But in mid-2017, an al Qaida linked propaganda network said he became the head of an affiliate militant group, Ansar Ghawzat-ul-Hind.

People march in a procession to attend the funeral of most wanted militant commander

A crowd gather at Musa’s funeral with many filming the proceedings on their mobile phones

Musa regularly issued audio messages mainly stressing that Kashmir’s struggle was for Islamic cause and had nothing to do with nationalism, highlighting a shift in ideology among some rebels in the region where militants have mainly fought for either independence of Indian-controlled Kashmir or merger with Pakistan.

He instantly became a media sensation, particularly with New Delhi-based television news channels using him to showcase that the Kashmiri struggle for self-rule was part of a global militant agenda.

Previously, no global jihadi groups have openly operated in Kashmir, a territory divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both.

People inspect the house which was blasted and set on fire by Indian forces during a gun-battle in Dadsara area of Tral in South Kashmir in which India’s most wanted militant commander Zakir Musa was killed

An Indian paramilitary solider stands guard at a closed market during a protest against the killing of Zakir Musa amid a curfew in Srinagar

Indian paramilitary soldiers walk back after chasing Kashmiris protesting against the killing of Zakir Musa

All Kashmir rebel groups rejected Musa and his al Qaida affiliate, some even calling him obstructive to their cause.

Separatist leaders who challenge India’s sovereignty over Kashmir have repeatedly rejected the presence of outside groups, including al Qaida, and have accused India of portraying the Kashmiri struggle as extremist.

Musa was a close aide of Burhan Wani, a charismatic Kashmiri rebel leader whose killing in 2016 triggered open defiance against Indian rule.

Volunteers try to control the crowd during the funeral of Zakir Musa who headed the Al Qaeda affiliate Ansar Gazwatul Hind

Kashmiri villagers shout slogans during a funeral procession of top militant commander Zakir Musa

Wani’s death and the resulting public fury brought the armed rebellion into the mainstream in Kashmir and revived a militant movement that had withered in recent years to only about 100 fighters in scattered outfits.

Officials say since Wani’s killing, hundreds of young men have joined rebel ranks, some of them stealing weapons from soldiers and police. Wani’s death also cemented a shift in public behaviour, with people displaying anger at Indian rule openly and violently when troops raid villages to hunt rebels.

Rebel groups have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising and the Indian military crackdown.

As the news of the commander’s death spread so did the anti-India protests with Indian paramilitary soldiers brought in to impose a curfew for residents 

Indian policemen chase Kashmiris protesting against the killing of Zakir Musa through streets

Government forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir killed Musa in the disputed region. Graffiti reads ‘India go back’ 

A man throws an object towards Indian paramilitary soldiers as a group of young protesters cover their faces

Another masked young man throws bricks towards the Indian paramilitary soldiers

An Indian police officer fires a pellet gun at Kashmiris protesting the killing of Zakir Musa in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir 

 A young man wears a skeleton mask and shirt depicting a picture of militant commander Zakir Musa, as he stands inside of a damaged house – where Musa is believed to have been killed

Kashmiri villagers look on from the damaged house believed to be the home of Zakir Musa of Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind

Smoke billows from a room of a residential house that was damaged during a gun battle between Zakir and Indian security forces as a man wearing a T-shirt with an image of Zakir Musa looks out

A Kashmiri boy looks at bullet-holed wall of a damaged house where militant commander Zakir Musa was killed at Dadsara village in Tral, south of Srinagar

Kashmri people inspect the damaged house where militant commander Zakir Musa was killed

Kashmiris examine a residential house destroyed in a gun battle between Indian government forces and the most wanted militant commander Zakir Musa


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