A prominent religious leader and pro-separatist cleric was killed in a blast outside a mosque while on way to lead Friday prayers here. Moulvi Showkat Ahmad Shah (55), a liberal who had denounced stone-pelting and was engaged with the Centre’s interlocutors, was seriously injured when an improvised
explosive device kept on a bicycle went off in Srinagar’s Maisuma area at around 12.25pm, the police said.
“He died on his way to the hospital,” said Ashiq Bukhari, SSP Srinagar.
One person, Mukhtar Ahmad Mir, was injured.
As the news spread, shopkeepers downed shutters, traffic thinned and city’s commercial hub Lal chowk shut down.
A red alert has been sounded in the city. No militant organisation has claimed responsibility for the killing, so far.
Chief minister Omar Abdullah condemned the “senseless” killing and asked the people to keep calm.
Peoples Democratic Party patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and president Mehbooba Mufti said Shah’s death was a huge loss. Communist Party of India (M) state secretary MY Tarigami said it was an act of “cowardice”.
Shah was president of religious group Jamiat-e-ahle Hadith, which practices a more “puritan” form of religion and directly follows the ulema (Islamic scholars) in Saudi Arabia. Kashmir traditionally follows the more moderate Sufi Islam.
Shah was also a close associate of moderate separatist leader Yasin Malik, who said he would expose his friend’s killers.
This is first such attack after December 4, 2009, when moderate separatist leader Fazal Haq Qureshi survived an attempt on his life. Agencies