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Breakthrough Arrests: Mirwaiz’s Killers Caught After 33 Years

The arrest of terrorists Javaid Ahmad Bhat and Zahoor Ahmad Bhat represents a significant milestone in the long-standing pursuit of justice for Mirwaiz Farooq’s assassination.

By Ajaz Rashid

In a significant breakthrough, the Special Investigation Agency (SIA) of Jammu and Kashmir Police has successfully tracked down and apprehended two absconding terrorists belonging to Hizbul Mujahideen. Javaid Ahmad Bhat, known as Ajmal Khan, and Zahoor Ahmad Bhat, also known as Bilal, were wanted for their involvement in the brutal assassination of Mirwaiz Farooq on May 21, 1990. After evading capture for more than three decades, the duo was recently arrested and handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for trial. Breakthrough Arrests: Mirwaiz’s Killers Caught After 33 Years

Mirwaiz Farooq, the prominent Kashmiri leader and head priest, was targeted by Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists. The killing of Mirwaiz Farooq sent shockwaves across the region. The case, registered as FIR No 61/1990 at Police Station Nageen, Srinagar, was later transferred to the CBI for investigation on June 11, 1990.

After a painstaking and lengthy legal process, the designated TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities) court in Delhi convicted Ayub Dar, also known as Ishfaq, in 2009. Ayub Dar is currently serving a life sentence in Srinagar Central Jail. However, four other individuals involved in the heinous crime managed to evade capture until now.

The Arrests

Javaid Ahmad Bhat and Zahoor Ahmad Bhat, who had been on the run for several years, were finally apprehended by the SIA of J&K Police. The terrorists had been hiding in various locations, including Nepal and Pakistan, before returning to Kashmir a few years ago. They maintained a low profile, frequently changing addresses and residences to avoid detection by law enforcement agencies.

Breakthrough Arrests: Mirwaiz’s Killers Caught After 33 Years

The two arrested terrorists will now face trial in a designated TADA court in Delhi. This court has already completed the trial of Ayub Dar, who was found guilty and convicted for life. The court will now proceed with the trial against Javaid Ahmad Bhat and Zahoor Ahmad Bhat, holding them accountable for their alleged role in the assassination of Mirwaiz Farooq.

The Supreme Court’s Findings

Excerpts from the Supreme Court order reveal that Abdullah Bangroo, Javed Ahmed Bhat alias Ajmal Khan, and Mohd. Ayub Dar alias Ishfaq conspired to eliminate Mirwaiz Farooq in April 1990. Javed Ahmed Bhat and Ayub Dar visited Mirwaiz’s residence, seeking financial assistance for their terrorist organization. On May 21, 1990, Zahoor Ahmad alias Bilal fired multiple rounds at Mirwaiz Farooq, resulting in his tragic death. The investigation further established the involvement of Abdul Rehman Shigan alias Inayat in the conspiracy.

Police Statement

SIA of J&K Police tracks & arrests two absconding terrorists involved in killing of Mirwaiz Farooq, hands over to CBI to face trial.

Five terrorists were involved in the killing:

(i)            Abdullah Bangroo & Rehman Shigan had got killed in encounters and couldn’t face trial.

(ii)           Ayub Dar underwent trial and convicted for life, currently serving sentence in Srinagar central jail.

(iii)          Javaid Bhat & Zahoor Bhat were absconding and hence escaped trial. Now apprehended.

In a significant operation, SIA of J&K Police have arrested two Hizbul-Mujahideen terrorists:

•             Javaid Ahmad Bhat code Ajmal Khan S/o Late Habibullah Bhat R/o Solina Bala, A/P Azad Basti Natipora Srinagar and

•             Zahoor Ahmad Bhat code Bilal S/o Late Mohamad Ramzan Bhat R/o Danderkhaw Batamalo Srinagar who were absconding after murdering Mirwaiz on 21 May 1990. The two had gone underground and during all these years were variously hiding in Nepal and Pakistan among other places before surreptitiously returning back to Kashmir few years ago. Maintaining a low profile, changing addresses and shifting residences, they avoided the gaze of law enforcement agencies.

Accused in CBI case RC0501990S008 (pertaining to killing of Mirwaiz Farooq) they are now liable to immediately face trial in a designated TADA court in Delhi which has already completed the trial in respect of one of the five accused namely Ayub Dar code Ishfaq son of Late Abdul Ahad Dar of Rawalpora of Srinagar who has been convicted and serving a life sentence. Two other absconding accused terrorists found guilty in the killing of Mirwaiz, Abdullah Bangroo and Abdul Rehman Shigan, got killed in encounters with security forces in the 1990s.

To recapitulate, on 21 May 1990, Mirwaiz Farooq, the head priest of Kashmir was killed by terrorists of Hizbul Mujahideen accusing him of being a ‘peacenik’ and an ‘Indian agent’.

Case FIR No 61/1990 came to be registered in Police Station Nageen, Srinagar to investigate the crime. Thereafter the government of the day transferred the investigation to CBI on 11 June 1990.

After a long and arduous legal process of investigation and prosecution, the designated TADA court, in 2009, convicted the only arrested accused Ayub Dar for life. The remaining four remained on run. While two (Abdullah Bangroo & Rehman Shigan) died in encounters, Javaid Bhat and Ayub Bhat managed to evade.

Ayub Dar, the convicted terrorist and one of the killers appealed against his conviction, which however, was upheld by the Division Bench of Hon’ble Supreme Court in Criminal Appeal No.535 of 2009 on 21 July 2010.

Before killing Mirwaiz, all the five HM terrorists had gone to Pakistan for terrorist training in 1990. Back in Srinagar, Abdullah Bangroo received instructions in April 1990 from his ISI handler in Pakistan to eliminate Mirwaiz.  

Paraphrased excerpts from Supreme Court order:

In the year 1990 itself, in the month of April, accused Abdullah Bangroo, Javed Ahmed Bhat alias Ajmal Khan and Mohd. Ayub Dar alias Ishfaq, who belongs to Hizbul Mujahideen, entered into a criminal conspiracy to eliminate Mirwaiz Moulvi Farooq. Accused Abdulla Bangroo, who was then heading Hizbul Mujahideen, instructed Javed Ahmed Bhat alias Ajmal Khan and Mohd. Ayub Dar alias Ishfaq to plan elimination of Mirwaiz Moulvi Farooq. Javed Ahmed Bhat alias Ajmal Khan was then working 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.

As per the plan, they all reached the gate of Mirwaiz Manzil and met Maqbool Shah, the gate-keeper and informed him that they wanted to meet Moulvi Farooq. Maqbool Shah then asked Gulam Qadir Sofi, the gardener, to take them to the Personal Assistant as he himself was going 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 the accused persons escaped giving a push to the Gardener Ghulam Qadir Sofi. Accused Bilal also tried to run away, but he was caught by Ghulam Qadir Sofi. There was a scuffle between the two, in which Bilal sustained an injury below his right eye. Later, after firing one round from his pistol, Bilal also managed to escape. The accused persons ran towards Kashmir University, who were followed by Ghulam Qadir Sofi upto the main road and near the University Gate, the assailants ran towards Soura through the University compound and reached Chatargam in the afternoon of 21.05.1990. They then reported killing of Moulvi Farooq to Abdulla Bangroo alias Ajmal Khan. All the three accused persons were directed by Abdullah Bangroo, to go underground for some time.

During trail running for several years, it could be established that the terrorist who pulled the trigger on Mirwaiz Farooq on the fateful day on the directions of then HM commander Abdullah Bangroo was Zahoor Bhat who ironically succeeded in evading arrest by going into hiding.

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