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Stealth and Strike in Srinagar
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Stealth and Strike in Srinagar

Termed as the mastermind behind the recent assassinations of political workers and cops, Abbas Sheikh’s killing is seen as the passing of the rank recruiter. 

The surreptitious strike in the summer capital by a near dozen covert counterinsurgents may be a perfect potboiler plotline, but it has already become a shot in the arm of the state police for killing the big gun without involving the joint force.

The slain was one of the remaining big names of Kashmir militancy who had become an “insurgent cult” for evading intelligence from last six years—before getting caught off guard along with his deputy at the twilight of August 23.

In fact, the passing of the supposed sparkplug behind Srinagar’s renewed recruitment is termed as a dent to the insurgency that lost its movers and shakers in the recent counterinsurgent offensive. 

“It’s always a feat when you gun down a big name,” said a senior sleuth with a stint in counterinsurgency grid. “Bigger the name, bigger the motivation. Abbas Sheikh, a tailor of the Burhan Wani era was the rank recruiter. He would motivate the youth for militancy with his survival skills. He was evading both technical and human intelligence since 2015 when he recycled into militancy. It was due to this ability that he could reactivate militancy in Srinagar.”

In April 2013, two years before rejoining militancy, Abbas was arrested for “reactivating” south Kashmir’s surrendered Hizb militants. It was the time when Kashmir was witnessing what came to be known as the new-age militancy. While the poster boys of this sweeping phase used social media for their reach and recruitment, the “old blood” from Rampur Kulgam played conventional, like some of his contemporaries who were killed in different encounters over the years.

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“When a certain militant becomes a cult figure, it makes militancy an appealing endeavor for others,” the sleuth said. “That’s why the strategy remains to target the big names besides cutting down the militancy lifelines called OGWs [Over ground workers].”

IGP Vijay Kumar

Before being outwitted by the plainclothes secret police, Abbas Sheikh—who first joined militancy during the nineties—had broken multiple cordons and managed to bypass martial operations during his renewed militant run. It’s said that he suffered an arm injury while breaking one of the cordons.

His largely faceless profile, many reckon, also determined his longevity. “Since operations depend on intelligence, but in his case it was not flowing so easily,” the sleuth said. “That tells you why he survived so long.” However, a faint clue about his presence would activate the apparatus.

In March 2021, an alert was sounded after police received a tip-off about Abbas’s presence in Srinagar’s Chanapora area. The chief of The Resistance Front (TRF), which is believed to be a shadow outfit of Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba, conveniently bypassed the intelligence before finally faring on police radar.

By the sundown of August 23, the Kashmir police chief was terming it a “big success”. “Sheikh Abbas was motivating youth to join terror ranks,” IGP Vijay Kumar said. “Saqib Manzoor was carrying killings at Abbas’s instruction.”

Both Abbas and his deputy Saqib were killed near the Alochibagh playground. The secret operation swiftness even took the locals by surprise. They were seen running for cover amid gunshots.

Abbas Sheikh and his deputy Saqib Manzoor

However, before cops in civvies killed one of the most wanted militants of Kashmir, he was seen as the brain behind many political and cop killings in Kashmir. BJP’s state president Ravindra Raina lately blamed him for killing his party man.

Notably, Abbas was killed barely 20 days after his name surfaced in the top ten “most wanted” militant list. In his late forties, Abbas was one of the oldest surviving militants in Kashmir, whose affiliation shifted from Hizb to TRF — the militant outfit founded after the abrogation of Article 370.

As an A++ category militant, the Kulgam native came from a family who lost over a dozen members to militancy, including his two brothers and nephews. His sister, Naseema Banoo, was booked under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in June 2020, for holding an AK-47 and posing with her son Tawseef Sheikh, a militant killed by forces.

IGP Kashmir pointed out that Abbas was involved in selective killings in Srinagar and was reactivating militancy in the Kashmir capital. 



“After Abbas’s demise, militancy won’t be the same again,” said another senior police with a counterinsurgency background. “Given his survival stint, he was acting as a cult and motivating others to join the ranks. But now, the stringent measures against militancy are hardly leaving any time for the cult-building.”

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