It was 10 PM on April 16. Darkness had descended over Hajin area of North Kashmir’s Bandipora district. Suddenly, a knock at the residence of the dreaded government gunman Abdul Rashid Parray alias Rashid Billa wanted for several crimes including massacres, broke the calm. In the meantime, those knocking at the door called “Fayaza! Fayaza!” In a restive region, where militancy is on deadly revival, the odd-hour knock would have been a sign of trouble. But those who knocked at the door happened to be childhood friends of Billa’s son Fayaz Ahmed.
Ruling out any trouble, insiders say, Fayaz Ahmed at once opened the door for his best friends, who lived in the neighbourhood, to know if everything was fine with them. But outside, it was a shocker awaiting him.
The moment Fayaz opened the door, four masked gunmen equipped with AK 47 rifles forced their entry into the house. They rushed straight away to the room where Billa was taking rest.
“Two of them were my best friends. Two were some other militants. My father asked them if they want to kill him but they responded saying no,” recaps Fayaz. With these words, the militants asked the other family members to leave the other room, while the four gunmen bolted it from the inside.
Frightened, Fayaz and other family members kept standing outside, with their fingers crossed. Within moments, a rapid fire proved their worst fears coming true. Billa was shot dead with numerous bullets pumped into his body. Amid the frightening chaos, the four gunmen managed to flee from the spot.
The attack was so brazen that Billa died instantly, much before he could be rushed to the hospital. Mourning at Billa’s residence, his son Fayaz “regrets the betrayal of his friends more than the death” of his father. “I can’t believe that my own childhood friends, who lived next door, have killed my dad. This is sheer betrayal.”
Fayaz says Billa had given up counter-insurgency a decade ago. But over the years, though a wanted criminal, Billa evaded arrests.
Part of the terror outfit Ikhwan Ul Muslimeen run by Muhammad Yousuf Parray alias Kuka Parray, Billa was the main accused in several murders including the 21-year-old Saderkoot massacre, when seven persons including two women were killed on October 5, 1996.
Despite staying underground, two years ago, Billa threw up a surprise by issuing a statement that he would soon be rechristened as Ikhwan commander.
A senior official told InUth that Billa had seemingly turned “overconfident.” “He had been presumably hiding in Srinagar but had secretly arrived at his residence. He must have been overconfident for doing so. Otherwise, he was wanted under Section 302,” he said.
In the past 27 years of armed conflict, it is believed to be the “most meticulously planned killing” where groundwork stretched for months.
While the police have filed a case, investigators believe that the militants might have exclusively dedicated a team to eliminate Billa. “Your own neighbours proving militants all of a sudden and see the kind of watch they must have kept on his (Billa’s) movement that he was killed within half an hour,” they said. Police noted that Billa had reached his residence at 9:30 PM. At 10 PM, he was shot dead.