SRINAGAR: Authorities today said they are investigating reports, leaked on social media, that a popular Hizbul Mujahideen commander from Kashmir Valley has been appointed as head of a new, Al-Qaeda linked cell in the region.

Director General of J&K Police, SP Vaid, said they are investigating the appointment of Zakir Musa as head of the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, set up in Jammu and Kashmir, and linked to the terror outfit.

“We are investigating these reports (of al-Qaeda in Kashmir). For us, a militant is a militant, whichever outfit he belongs to. And a person who take to arms is a militant for us,”DGP Vaid said during a press conference here today.

The announcement was made through a statement on Global Islamic Media Front, an Al-Qaeda linked propaganda channel and it was first reported by the London-based Guardian newspaper earlier this week.

"Jihad with the aid of Allah is the only way to liberate Kashmir. For this goal, a new movement of jihad has been founded by the companions of (Burhan) Wani under the leadership of Zakir Musa," the statement said.

Musa, who got into a public spat with the Hizb leadership recently over the motivations of 'jihad' in Kashmir, had threatened to behead those coming in the way of implementing 'Sharia rule' in the region.

The war of words shot him into prominence within the militant ranks, especially since he was touted as the successor of Burhan Wani and it also rattled the militant and separatist leadership.

But Musa announced to fight "on my own" and parted ways from the Hizbul Mujahideen on May 13 but not before calling out the separatists and militant commanders who give "political colours" to the Islamic struggle in Kashmir.

The popularity of Musa, who dropped out of an engineering college in Chandigarh to join militancy, has since only grown in the region with pro-Zakir Musa slogans breaking out at the funerals of separatist rebels killed in counter-operations by security forces in Kashmir.

After the death of Wani, Zakir Musa exploited social media to reach out to the growing ranks of disillusioned youths in Kashmir. However, the separatist leaders and militant groups have disassociated themselves from his activities.

"A conspiracy is being hatched by Government and its media to malign the image of leadership and freedom struggle. This conspiracy will not be successful as freedom loving people know that success lies in unity and following leadership,” Syed Salahuddin, chief of UJC, a conglomerate of over dozen militant groups operating in Kashmir, said in his latest statement.

"Groups such as Al-Qaeda and ISIS are being brought up to label the legitimate freedom struggle as terrorism. Al-Qaeda and ISIS thrive on Takfeer. All they have done has just greatly affected the Muslims and brought upon them the injustice, brutality and oppression," Lashkar-e-Toiba said in its statement yesterday.