Yaseen Itoo, who was gunned down in an overnight encounter with security forces in Shopian on Sunday, is not just another name on the list of extremists. Itoo, or as he is popularly know - Mehmood Ghaznavi was the longest surviving terrorist in the Valley.
A resident of Nagam area of central Kashmir’s Budgam district, Mehmood Ghaznavi left home to join Hizbul Mujahideen in 1996. He was a second-year graduate student at Amar Singh College in Srinagar at the time. He returned a year later and surrendered to the police. He was arrested but released a few months later.
According to reports, he later finished his graduation and opened a coaching centre in the main market at Chadoora, where he taught students of all classes.
But in 2002, he left his home again to join millitant outfit and was arrested a year later.
In 2004, after his release from prison, he again joined militancy and rose on to become district commander of Hizbul for Budgam.
He was arrested again in 2005 and later released in early 2015. Soon, he joined Tehreek-I-Hurriyat headed by Syed Ali Geelani. However after some time, he went missing and a Hizb statement declared him as “killed.” In a statement, Hizb chief Syed Salahuddin had said that Ghaznavi was killed when he fell from a mountain while being on “operational duties”. His funeral in-absentia was offered at his Nagam residence.
However, after the killing of Burhan Wani, Ghaznavi appeared in south Kashmir and addressed massive public rallies in various areas during the public uprising. He also addressed a massive rally in Redwani village of Kulgam on August 14 last year. It was then that he again came on police radar.
Of late, many of his videos had gone viral on social networking sites. In a video released ahead of Burhan Wani’s anniversary, Ghaznavi had appealed to people to repose trust in political and militant leadership and be cautious against those challenging legal and historic nature of Kashmir conflict.