Srinagar, May 17: In a significant operation, the SIA of J&K Police has apprehended two Hizbul-Mujahideen terrorists involved in the killing of Mirwaiz Farooq on May 21, 1990. The arrested individuals are:
• Javaid Ahmad Bhat, also known as Ajmal Khan, son of Late Habibullah Bhat, resident of Solina Bala, A/P: Azad Basti Natipora, Srinagar.
• Zahoor Ahmad Bhat, also known as Bilal, son of Late Mohamad Ramzan Bhat, resident of Danderkhaw Batamalo, Srinagar.
These terrorists had been absconding for several years and had been hiding in various locations, including Nepal and Pakistan, before clandestinely returning to Kashmir a few years ago. They managed to evade law enforcement agencies by maintaining a low profile, frequently changing addresses, and shifting residences.
The accused individuals, involved in the killing of Mirwaiz Farooq, are now required to undergo an immediate trial in a designated TADA court in Delhi. The case, registered as RC0501990S008 by the CBI, has already concluded the trial for one of the five accused, Ayub Dar, also known as Ishfaq, son of Late Abdul Ahad Dar from Rawalpora, Srinagar. Ayub Dar has been convicted and is currently serving a life sentence. Two other absconding accused terrorists, Abdullah Bangroo and Abdul Rehman Shigan, who were found guilty in the killing of Mirwaiz, were killed during encounters with security forces in the 1990s.
On May 21, 1990, Mirwaiz Farooq, the prominent Kashmiri religious leader, was tragically killed by terrorists associated with Hizbul Mujahideen. The terrorists accused him of being a ‘peacenik’ and an alleged ‘Indian agent’.
A case with FIR No 61/1990 was registered at Police Station Nageen, Srinagar to initiate an investigation into the crime. Subsequently, on June 11, 1990, the government at that time decided to transfer the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Following an extensive and challenging legal process involving investigation and prosecution, the designated TADA court handed down a life sentence to the sole arrested accused, Ayub Dar, in 2009. The other four accused remained fugitives, with Abdullah Bangroo and Rehman Shigan meeting their demise in encounters with security forces. Javaid Bhat and Ayub Bhat, however, successfully evaded capture.
Ayub Dar, the convicted terrorist and one of the killers, filed an appeal against his conviction. However, the Division Bench of the Honorable Supreme Court, in Criminal Appeal No. 535 of 2009, upheld the conviction on July 21, 2010.
Prior to the assassination of Mirwaiz, all five terrorists associated with Hizbul Mujahideen had undergone terrorist training in Pakistan in 1990. Upon their return to Srinagar, Abdullah Bangroo received instructions in April 1990 from his handler affiliated with the ISI in Pakistan, directing him to eliminate Mirwaiz.
In April 1990, Abdullah Bangroo, Javed Ahmed Bhat, also known as Ajmal Khan, and Mohd. Ayub Dar, also known as Ishfaq, who were affiliated with Hizbul Mujahideen, conspired to assassinate Mirwaiz Moulvi Farooq. At that time, Abdullah Bangroo, who held a leadership position in Hizbul Mujahideen, instructed Javed Ahmed Bhat, alias Ajmal Khan, and Mohd. Ayub Dar, alias Ishfaq, to devise a plan to eliminate Mirwaiz Moulvi Farooq. Javed Ahmed Bhat, alias Ajmal Khan, served as an Area Commander of Hizbul-Mujahideen in the downtown area of Srinagar.
Whereas the Javed was working as a Group Commander in that very area. Later on, Abdul Rehman Shigan alias Inayat and Zahoor Ahmed alias Bilal also joined the conspiracy. It came out in the investigation that, in the second week of May, 1990, under the instructions of Javed Ahmed Bhat alias Ajmal Khan, Mohd. Ayub Dar alias Ishfaq and Abdul Rehman Shigan alias Inayat had visited the residence of Moulvi Farooq at Nageen, Srinagar and had requested him for financial help to their terrorist organization i.e. Hizbul Mujahideen. Moulvi Farooq had agreed to help them and had asked them to meet after 2/3 days during the morning hours. Thereafter, two accused surveyed the area as per their plan and informed the details to Javed Ahmed Bhat alias Ajmal Khan. It was on 21.05.1990 that the three accused namely Mohd Ayub Dar alias Ishfaq , Abdul Rehman Shingan alias Inayat and Zahoor Ahmed alias Bilal alias Jana armed with loaded pistol visited the `Mirwaiz Manzil’ at Nageen. Accused Javed Ahmed Bhat alias Bilal had instructed the appellant that, out of the three accused persons, Zahoor Ahmed alias Bilal would fire on Moulvi Farooq and the remaining two accused persons namely Ayub Dar and Abdul Rehman Shingan were to provide cover to Zahoor Ahmed alias Bilal.
According to the plan, the group arrived at the entrance of Mirwaiz Manzil and encountered Maqbool Shah, the gatekeeper. They informed him of their intention to meet Moulvi Farooq. In response, Maqbool Shah requested Gulam Qadir Sofi, the gardener, to accompany them to the Personal Assistant, as he himself had plans to go to the market.
Accordingly, the gardener – Ghulam Qadir Sofi took the three to the Personal Assistant namely Saidur Rehman , who asked them about their names and one of them disclosed his fake name as Gulzar Farooq R/o. Batmaloo. That name was written by the Personal Assistant on a slip of paper and the said slip was sent inside the room of Moulvi Farooq through the gardener Ghulam Qadir Sofi. After sometime, Moulvi Farooq called the three accused inside the Office, on which Zahoor Ahmed alias Bilal entered the room of Moulvi Farooq and the remaining two accused persons including Javed Bhat took position in the PA’s room. On entering the room of Moulvi Farooq, Zahoor Ahmed alias Bilal fired several rounds on Moulvi Farooq from his pistol and immediately, accused Inayat also fired from his pistol in the air while coming out of PA’s room, which hit the outside wall of the Office. On hearing the sound of firing, the gardener came inside the Office and tried to catch hold of Ishfaq, who was trying to escape.
However, all of the accused individuals managed to escape after pushing the gardener, Ghulam Qadir Sofi. Bilal, one of the accused, attempted to flee as well, but Ghulam Qadir Sofi was able to apprehend him. A scuffle ensued between the two, resulting in Bilal sustaining an injury below his right eye. Eventually, Bilal fired one round from his pistol and successfully escaped. The assailants fled towards Kashmir University, closely pursued by Ghulam Qadir Sofi until they reached the main road. Near the University Gate, the attackers entered the University compound and proceeded towards Soura. In the afternoon of May 21, 1990, they arrived at Chatargam and reported the assassination of Moulvi Farooq to Abdullah Bangroo, also known as Ajmal Khan. Under Abdullah Bangroo’s direction, all three accused individuals were instructed to go into hiding for a period of time.
During the lengthy trial spanning several years, it was established that Zahoor Bhat, the terrorist who carried out the act of shooting Mirwaiz Farooq on the tragic day, acted under the instructions of the then Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Abdullah Bangroo. Ironically, Zahoor Bhat managed to evade arrest by going into hiding.