Barely five months after joining service, 22-year-old Lieutenant Ummer Faiyaz was abducted and killed by militants in the volatile Shopian district of South Kashmir on Tuesday.
The officer, a Kashmiri, was on leave and had gone for his cousin’s wedding at his village in Kulgam in south Kashmir when he was kidnapped around 10 pm. Three terrorists with guns went up to the first floor of his relative’s home and dragged him out, according to a cousin, the bride’s brother. The family, too terrified to report the kidnapping, had hoped that he would be sent back alive.
His body was recovered from Hermain Chowk of Shopian next morning,” Army sources said. Militants had fired at least five rounds on him at point-blank range.
“In a dastardly act, some terrorists abducted and killed a young unarmed officer who had come on leave to his native place in Kulgam district,” said a Srinagar-based Army spokesman.
Born in 1994, the Lt. Ummer Fayaz joined the Army on December 10, 2016 and belonged to 2 Rajputana Rifles. An ex-National Defence Academy member, Lt. Ummer Fayaz was known for skills in hockey and basketball. Son of a farmer, who owns an orchard in south Kashmir, the Officer was scheduled to attend the Young Officers Training course in September this year.
“The Army commits itself to bring the perpetrators of this heinous act to justice,” said the Army spokesman.
The Army issued a statement paying tribute to the martyr. “Some unidentified terrorists yesterday abducted and then killed unarmed Army Officer Lieutenant Umar Faiyaz, who had come on leave to his native place in Kulgam, south Kashmir to attend a marriage in his family. The Army salutes the braveheart and stands by the bereaved family in this hour of tragedy and commits to bringing the perpetrators of this heinous act of terror to justice”, the statement read.
Lt Faiyaz was buried with full military honours in Kulgam district and the funeral was attended by hundreds of people. An alleged misfire from the rifle of a policeman at the funeral led to stone pelting in the area. However, normalcy was restored.
A police investigation has been launched into the officer’s murder. “We will investigate how militants found out the Army officer was at his relative’s residence. Someone could have leaked the information,” police said.
“He was an absolutely outstanding officer, outstanding sportsman. Kashmir has lost its son… We have lost a young, promising officer. I am sure when the people of Kashmir realise this, they will join hands and hit back at perpetrators,” said Lieutenant General Abhay Krishna, Colonel Commandant of the Rajputana Rifles.
“After he successfully completed his training, he was very well integrated with his troops. He was very very focused. The troops loved him. He used to beat everyone in games. I remember whenever I gave him a task, he used to take it as a challenge. For me it’s like losing a member of my family,” said Colonel RR Patil, his commanding officer in Akhnoor.
According to Major Avdesh Choudhary who trained him at the Rajputana Rifles Regimental Centre in Delhi after he was commissioned into the Army in December said that Ummer Fayaz overshadowed others due to his enthusiasm.
“I told myself I had to keep an eye on him. I found he overshadowed the others because of his enthusiasm. I thought to myself that he will do well in the Army. He would do well for the regiment and for himself. He wanted to prove something. There was a spark in his eyes. That’s what I liked about him,” he said.
Condemning the killing, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said, “It was more painful to note that the young officer had come home on vacation where he was attending the marriage of his cousin.”
Stating that the young officer was a ‘role model,’ Defence Minister Arun Jaitley called his abduction and killing a “dastardly act.” “Lt. Ummer Fayaz of 2 RAJRIF was an exceptional sportsman, his sacrifice reiterates the nation’s commitment to eliminate terrorism from the Valley,” he said in a tweet.
Meanwhile, former chief minister Omar Abdullah mourned the death of the Army officer. “Very sad and alarming. Condolences to the family. May Lieutenant Umar Fayaz’s soul rests in peace”, he said.
The killing of the officer signals an increasing trend of security forces being targeted. Last week, six policemen were killed by militants across south Kashmir, forcing security agencies to launch a massive combing operation.
In fact, an advisory was recently put out by the State police department directing its officers not to visit their homes in south Kashmir to visit their ancestral homes, especially in south Kashmir areas. There has been a spike in militant activities in districts like Pulwama, Shopian, Anantnag and Kulgam.