Senior separatist Hurriyat Conference leader Fazal Haque Qureshi, who was shot outside his house here by unidentified gunmen Friday, is stable but not out of danger, a relative of his said Saturday. A shutdown to protest the attack, meanwhile, affected life in the city.

Qureshi underwent a four-hour long operation in the Sher-e-Kashmir Medical Institute Soura and is now on a ventilator for respiratory support.

“His operation was conducted last night which continued till 11.30 p.m. and the doctors said he is stable but critical,” Tariq Andrabi, a close relative, told IANS.

Qureshi is in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of the hospital under tight security and no one is allowed to meet him except close relatives, Andrabi said.

Doctors had Friday said a bullet has pierced his head.

Qureshi, a senior leader of the moderate Hurriyat group headed by Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, is said to be one of the most vocal supporters of the dialogue process to solve the Kashmir issue.

He was shot and critically wounded outside his Soura house Friday evening when he was leaving for prayers at a mosque. Four men shot him from close range. Al-Nasreen, a little-known guerrilla group, had late Friday called some local media offices and owned responsibility for the attack.

The attack is seen as an attempt to derail the “quiet dialogue” reportedly going on between the union government and the separatist leaders of Kashmir.

The moderate Hurriyat group headed by the Mirwaiz called a shutdown Saturday to protest the attack on Qureshi.

Traffic and businesses were affected here due to the strike while government offices, banks and educational institutions remained closed on account of a public holiday on the birth anniversary of the regional National Conference (NC) founder, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah.

Reacting sharply to the attack on Qureshi, the Mirwaiz had Friday termed it an act of cowardice and said the moderate Hurriyat would not be demoralised by it.

“There are certain elements within Kashmir who do not want a permanent solution to the problem. They want to continue the uncertainty so that their vested interests are protected.

“We have vowed to stand by the sacrifices of the martyrs and work for a peaceful solution to the Kashmir problem by talking to both Pakistan and India,” Mirwaiz told reporters outside the hospital where Qureshi is being treated.

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