Three Lashkar-e-Taiba militants, including 14-year-old Mudasir Ahmad and 17-year-old Saqib Ahmed Bilal, were killed in an 18-hour-long gunfight with security forces in Mujgund area, about 12 km from Srinagar.
Saqib Bilal, a class 11 student, known for his cameo role in the Bollywood movie ‘Haider’, starring Shahid Khan in the lead role, had reportedly joined the militant group with his friend, Mudasir who was studying in class 9, after they went missing on August 31.
Both Saqib and his friend, hailing from Hajin area in north Kashmir’s Bandipora, were found to be working for a Pakistani militant commander, Ali Bhai, who was also killed in the encounter.
Bilal had cleared his Class 10 with a distinction and was studying physics, chemistry and maths in Class 11. He was a football enthusiast and had even played taekwondo and kabaddi. Saqib played the role of a teenager in the movie ‘Haider’, who is seen struggling between independence and militancy in the movie. Ironically the reel life role became the real-life destiny for Saqib, admitted the slain’s father.
Police confirmed that the two teenagers had joined the Lashkar-e-Taiba, immediately after they went missing on August 31.
Families of both the teenagers had appealed them to give up militancy and return home.
The only reason the family could find, behind Bilal joining the militants, was an encounter between militants and security forces a day before their disappearance in Hajin. “Some militants had been killed and people went to see the ruined place.” This might have influenced the teenagers to take such a drastic step, assumed Bilal’s family members.
Last week, a picture of Mudasir carrying a dagger and an assault rifle had gone viral on social media. A police official said the picture was a few months old and was released recently to lure more youths to militancy.
The death of the two teenage boys had triggered anger in the people of Kashmir. People were outraged with the fact that the militants were targeting minors and luring them to take up militancy. The public also raised concerns as to how the security forces could go for the kill when minors were involved.
Bodies of both the deceased teenagers were laid to rest in their native places on Monday and people in large numbers attended the funeral.
However, this is not the first time minors have been seen picking up guns in Kashmir. Over 150 young boys from Kashmir have joined militancy this year. Local youth joining militancy has been on the rise, especially after the killing of 21-year-old Hizb commander Burhan Wani on July 8, 2016.
A 20-year-old captured LeT operative, Zaibullah alias Hamza had earlier revealed that Lashkar-e-Taiba has recruited approximately 450 boys aged between 15-25 years who are being trained by LeT in Pakistan for anti-India activities. These boys are being radicalized in the name of Burhan Wani, Zaibullah added.