In Jammu and Kashmir's first political assassination since the Lok Sabha elections were announced on March 5, suspected militants on Thursday night shot dead the principal opposition outfit Peoples Democratic Party's (PDP) activist and Sarpanch Mohammd Amin Pandit outside his residence at Gulzarpora in Awantipore police district of south Kashmir.

Informed official sources quoting the residents told The Hindu that three unidentified gunmen appeared at Gulzarpora, a village in close vicinity of Army's divisional headquarters of Victor Force and an Indian Air Force base in Awantipore, at about 10.00 pm and they forced one Farooq Ahmad Bhat to call Mr. Pandit out of his home.

As the 45-year-old Mr. Pandit came out, he was taken away on gun point and shot dead near Iddgah, some 50 yards from his house. After the gunmen vanished into the neighbourhood, a critically injured Mr. Pandit was rushed to a local hospital where doctors declared him “brought dead.” While the post mortem was still under process, sources said an AK-47 rifle and a pistol had been used to kill the PDP worker.

Deputy Inspector General of Police South Kashmir Vijay Kumar told The Hindu that Farooq Bhat would be interrogated to learn about the identities of the assassins. On the basis of preliminary reports a group of three militants operating from Tral had carried out the assassination but their identification would be available in a couple of days as the Police and security forces had already launched a manhunt for the killers, he added.

Several militant groups had called for the boycott of Lok Sabha elections. Militants had earlier made an attempt to kill National Conference (NC) youth leader Yawar Massodi. National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah blamed the PDP for the guerrilla strike on the house of Mr. Massodi. In an election rally speech, Dr Abdullah reportedly called the last Sunday attack on Mr. Massodi's house as the handiwork of Mr. Sayeed and his PDP, claiming that Pakistan and the separatist militants were not behind it. PDP has promptly filed a complaint of the violation of moral code of conduct against Dr. Abdullah with Election Commission.

The PDP president Mehbooba Mufti is in a tough contest with NC's Mehboob Beg in South Kashmir where polling is scheduled to be held on April 24. Ms. Mufti and her party have been repeatedly alleging that the ruling NC-Congress coalition was attempting to create fear to make the voter turnout minimum. That, according to the PDP, benefits the NC. However, NC has trashed all such insinuations as the PDP's "frustration before a total rout in the elections".

Blame on NC, Farooq

Ms. Mufti on Friday held Union Minister Farooq Abdullah and the ruling National Conference responsible for the killing of her colleague and Sarpanch Mohammad Amin Pandit of Gulzarpora, Awantipora. Mr. Pandit (45) was shot dead by suspected militants near his home late on Thursday night.

Talking to journalists, Ms. Mehbooba referred to some published statements, purportedly made by Dr. Abdullah on Thursday afternoon. “At 2.00 p.m. Farooq Sahab threatened in his speech that he would wipe out all the PDP men if he had resources like bombs and grenades. At 9.00 p.m, gunmen shot dead our Sarpanch,” Ms. Mehbooba said, holding Dr. Abdullah and his party directly responsible for engineering and executing Mr. Pandit’s killing. “They have all the resources. They have the government, the agencies, the police and forces. What else resources did they require?”

She also said that her party leadership had taken an extremely serious note of the NC supremo’s “direct threats of elimination” and decided to file a written complaint of violation of the model code against Dr. Abdullah.