MUZAFFARABAD, April 7: Kashmir’s hard-line fighter group, Harkatul Mujahideen, on Monday appointed a new chief commander for the occupied territory, and vowed to avenge the custodial killing of its chief commander at the hands of Indian army.

A spokesman for the group said the deputy chief commander in held Kashmir, Shoaib Ahmed, had been elevated to the position of chief commander after consultations with senior commanders in the occupied territory.

Mr Shoaib has been asked to perform the responsibilities of chief commander for the time being. The new commander will be selected within the next few days after further consultations in this regard, the spokesman said in a statement.

The statement did not carry any more information about the new chief commander for reasons of his security.

Fayaz Ahmed Khan, the chief commander of Harkatul Mujahideen, was killed overnight Saturday in Ahribal, some 75 kilometres south of occupied Srinagar. Indian army said he was a Pakistani national.

However, the Harkat spokesman rejected the Indian claim, saying that the slain chief was a resident of Azad Kashmir’s Poonch district.

Mr Khan, who used the alias of Yousaf Chacha, was in occupied Kashmir since late 1999. He was assigned the responsibilities of the chief commander two years back, the spokesman said.

He said the Indian troops had killed him in custody, in the same manner in which Hizbul Mujahideen’s operational chief Ghulam Hassan Khan, alias Saif ul Islam, was killed on Wednesday last.

Harkat and Hizb are among a dozen Mujahideen groups which are engaged in armed struggle since 1989 to overthrow illegal Indian rule in held Kashmir.

Around 70,000 people have died in the liberation movement over the past 14 years.

The Harkat spokesman said that the martyrdom of Mr Khan would not affect the activities of his group.

“God willing, the jihad would continue at the same pace,” he vowed, adding that the fighters would take appropriate avenge of the killing of Mr Khan from the occupation forces.

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