Indian cops hunt killers of editor who fought for peace in Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir police in India have started a manhunt for three terrorists who came on a motorcycle (CCTV grab – Courtesy: Jammu and Kashmir police) and shot dead the editor-in-chief of Rising Kashmir, Shujaat Bukhari, on Thursday.

Police released a copy of the CCTV footage of the three suspects speeding on a motorcycle. Anyone who can identify them has been asked to call the police. The video shows the rider wearing a helmet and the man riding pillion and sitting in the rear wearing a face mask. The third suspect sitting in the middle is not wearing a mask but his face is half-hidden by a sack-like thing he is carrying.

Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) S P Pani on Friday announced the arrest of a fourth suspect who was captured on a cellphone video of a passerby at the crime scene. It shows a bearded man in white clothes wearing a skull cap surveying the inside of Bukhari’s vehicle.  As someone tries to pull one of Bukhari”s body guards, then still alive, out  of the vehicle, the suspect picks up the guard’s pistol which falls on the ground, slips it into his left pocket and walks away.

The killers struck soon after Bukhari left his office in Srinagar’s Press Enclave. Police said he was hit by bullets fired at close range. Two of his bodyguards were also killed in the drive-by shooting.

One TV news channel identified the pillion rider sitting in the middle as Naveed Jat alias Abu Hanzala. It said Laskhar-e-Taiba was behind the attack masterminded by Pakistan’s Inter State Intelligence (ISI).

Bukhari was on terrorists’ hit list and there was an attempt on his life 18 years ago.

The federal home minister, Rajnath Singh, said terrorists were undoubtedly behind Bukhari’s killing although no militant group has owned up the attack so far.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, despite her soft approach to militants, said terrorism has hit a new low in Kashmir valley with Bukhari’s murder. For her, Bukhari’s murder came as a big embarrassment as the victim was the brother of her cabinet colleague, Syed Basharat Bukhari.

On May 16, as a goodwill gesture, the federal government had announced ceasefire to ensure a peaceful environment for fasting Muslims. But instead of suspending violence, various terrorist outfits used the ceasefire to regroup themselves and committed some 60 incidents of violence including murders.

Bukhari was gunned down two days before Eid-ul-Fitr which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadhan.

Braving the rain, hundreds of mourners joined Bukhari’s funeral procession in Kreeri village in Baramulla on Friday.

Mehbooba Mufti, ministers and opposition leader Omar Abdullah were among those who attended the funeral.