Paddar was killed with four other suspected militants, including a sociology professor at the University of Kashmir, in an encounter at Badigam in south Kashmir’s Shopian.

Srinagar: The Hizbul Mujahideen group that ushered in militancy’s social media chapter in the Valley met its death Sunday with the killing of its last active member, Saddam Paddar, in an encounter.

The group was spearheaded by Burhan Wani, the Hizbul commander who arrived on the scene as a social media fixture who posted photographs of himself bearing AK-47 rifles and posing with fellow militants, as well as propaganda videos. He was killed in an encounter in 2016.

Paddar was killed with four other suspected militants in an encounter at Badigam in south Kashmir’s Shopian.

“With Saddam Paddar’s killing, we have eliminated the entire group of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani,” a senior police officer told ThePrint. “Out of the 11 militants in Burhan’s core group, 10 have been killed, while the lone survivor is in jail,” the officer added.

A native of Tral in Pulwama, Burhan was the operational commander of the banned militant outfit.

Paddar, Burhan’s closest aide, was an active militant for four years. The others in Burhan’s ‘core group’ were Adil Khande, Nissar Pandit, Affaq Bhat,  Sabzar Bhat, Anees, Ishfaq Dar, Waseem Mallah,  Wasim Shah, and Tariq Pandit, who is in jail.

Shopian Encounter

The suspected militants killed in Sunday morning’s encounter included an assistant professor in the University of Kashmir’s sociology department, Dr Mohammad Rafi Bhat.

Bhat had gone missing from the university campus after Friday prayers, and was thought to have joined militancy. He completed his PhD last year.

The Jammu & Kashmir director general of police, Shesh Paul Vaid, confirmed Paddar and Bhat’s killing, and identified the other three militants killed as Tauseef Sheikh, Bilal Mohund and Adil Malik.  At the time of filing this report, the official toll of civilians killed in protests during the encounter was four.

“On the basis of information (received), we conducted a cordon-and-search operation and killed the five militants. Four civilians were also killed,” Paul told ThePrint.

Sources said over a dozen protesters were injured in clashes near the encounter site.

On 1 April, four civilians and three security personnel had died in three encounters across South Kashmir that led to the killing of 13 militants.

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