THE JAMMU and Kashmir Police on Thursday said it had “tangible evidence to establish” that the conspiracy to kill senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari was hatched by the Lashkar-e-Toiba in Pakistan, and executed by its operatives in the Valley.
Bukhari (51), editor of the daily Rising Kashmir, was gunned down outside his office in Srinagar on June 14. Two of his personal security officers were also killed in the attack. Police had earlier released CCTV footage of three attackers on a motorcycle.
The police on Thursday identified the killers as Naveed Jatt alias Hanzullah, a Pakistani national who escaped from Srinagar’s SMHS Hospital in February this year, and two local militants — Muzaffar Ahmad alias Talha from Qazigund, and Azad Ahmad Malik alias Dada, the LeT’s district commander in Anantnag.
While Talha is reported to be “active” since January this year, Dada is said to have been “active” in South Kashmir since 2016, and reportedly escaped an encounter site two months back.
Inspector General of Police (Kashmir) S P Pani also named a fourth accused, Sajjad Gul, a resident of Srinagar who is suspected to be living in Pakistan now, as the person behind a “malicious” social media campaign against Bukhari. Police said the “hate campaign” against Bukhari was run on social media platforms like “kashmirfight.wordpress.com”, Facebook account “kadwa sach Kashmir”, Twitter handle Ahmadkhalid@313. The blogs, according to police, are still active.
“Investigation has established that there was a campaign on certain social media platforms against Shujaat Bukhari, spreading hate, malicious and intimidating content against him,” said Pani. “During investigation, with the cooperation of service providers, tangible evidence has been collected to establish that individuals behind it belong to Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist organisation and all the content on social media was posted from Pakistan,” he said.
Police said Gul was “associated with Lashkar”, and had been arrested twice in the past — by the Delhi Police in 2002 and by the Srinagar police in 2016 in terror-related cases. He “obtained a passport fraudulently and left the country, and is now based in Pakistan,” said Pani.
While a lookout notice has been issued, Pani said they would approach the Interpol for a Red Corner Notice against Gul after obtaining a non-bailable warrant against him from the local court.
Asked about the involvement of another suspect, Zubair Qayoom, who was arrested two days after the incident, the IGP said his role was also being investigated. In a video clip released after Bukhari’s killing, Qayoom was seen picking up a pistol from one of the dead PSOs.
Refusing to comment on the motive behind Bukhari’s killing, Pani said: “The motive cannot be discussed until the charges in the case are framed.”