The J&K Police on Wednesday said they had identified senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari’s killers as two local militants from South Kashmir and a Pakistani militant who escaped from police custody in Srinagar earlier this year.
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 released CCTV footage of three attackers on a motorcycle. While one was wearing a helmet, another was wearing a mask.
“We have identified the attackers,” a top police officer privy to the investigation told The Indian Express. “Two of them are local militants from South Kashmir while the third is from Pakistan.” Sources said the attackers were identified on the basis of technical and human intelligence.
While police have not released details of the two local militants, sources said the Pakistani militant has been identified as Naveed Jatt, who escaped from police custody from the Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) Hospital in Srinagar in February this year. Jatt was associated with the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT).
A resident of Multan in Pakistan, Jatt, alias Abu Hanzala, was arrested by the J&K Police from Kulgam district in South Kashmir in June 2014. He was reported to be involved in several militant attacks on police and security forces, including a shootout inside the court complex in Pulwama.
In February, Jatt was taken to the SMHS Hospital in Srinagar for a check-up after he complained of abdominal pain. At the hospital, militants targeted the policemen accompanying Jatt, helping him to escape. The probe into his escape was handed over to the NIA.
Sources said another man has been detained in the case. “He is under detention and we are still probing his role in the attack,” said a police officer. “There are certain pointers to his role but we have no conclusive evidence against him so far,” he said.
While a youth, Zubair Qayoom, was earlier arrested for stealing a pistol from one of Bukhari’s guards, police said he was a drug addict and was not involved in the attack.
Police sources said the Pakistan-based blogger who had “started a smear campaign” against Bukhari has also been identified as a militant from Srinagar, who now lives across the border.
Bukhari’s killing, on the eve of Eid, left Srinagar stunned and there was all-round condemnation. While police had blamed the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), the militant group denied its involvement and blamed “Indian agencies” instead.
In another statement earlier this week, the Lashkar had also denied Jatt’s involvement in the attack. “This is nothing but a blatant lie,” Lashkar spokesman Dr Abdullah Ghaznavi had quoted the outfit’s chief Mehmood Shah as saying.
Bukhari was among those who had welcomed the Centre’s announcement of suspension of security operations during Ramzan.