The Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) hatched the conspiracy to kill the Valley-based senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari, and it was executed by four militants, including a foreigner, the Jammu and Kashmir police said on Thursday.
“Tangible evidence suggests that the LeT hatched the conspiracy in Pakistan,” Inspector-General of Police, Kashmir, S.P. Pani said in Srinagar.
He refused to name the LeT handlers at this juncture. The police released the pictures of four militants “directly involved” in the killing. They were identified as Muzaffar Ahmad alias Talha from south Kashmir’s Qazigund area; Azad Ahmad Malik alias Dada alias Zaid from Bijbehara; Naveed Jatt alias Hanzulla from Pakistan; and Sheikh Sajjad Gul from Srinagar. Describing them as “important LeT operatives,” the police said Talha was active as a militant since January 2018 and Malik since December 2016. Jatt, a resident of Multan’s Borivali in Pakistan, escaped from Srinagar’s Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital on February 6 when he was being shifted from Central Jail, Srinagar.
The police said Bukhari’s killing was preceded by an online smear and hate campaign with intimidating content.
“Gul ran ‘Kashmirfight’ blog, ‘Kadwasach Kashmir’ page on Facebook and ‘Ahmad Khalid’ Twitter handle from Pakistan. The service- providers have enough evidence of this. A resident of Srinagar, Gul went to Pakistan in March 2017 on a fraudulently obtained passport,” said Mr. Pani.
The police said it will issue an Interpol notice to Pakistan, under a treaty between the two countries, “to hand over Gul,” who was first arrested in Delhi in 2002 in a Hawala case and again in 2016 in a terror case.
On the motives behind the assassination, Mr. Pani said the identity of the executioners had now been established. “The investigating team will now focus on the chargesheet that will contain the motive too.”
The police said a fifth suspect, who was seen picking up a service pistol from an injured policeman at the encounter site, is “still being questioned about his role.”
Bukhari, 50, editor of the local daily Rising Kashmir , was killed along with two guards on June 14 in Lal Chowk’s Press Enclave by three motorbike-borne men carrying automatic weapons. The image of the gunmen was captured by many CCTV cameras in the area.
Both the LeT and militant conglomerate United Jehad Council (UJC) denied their involvement in the killing.
“If the Indian forces are truly convinced that this heinous crime was committed by militants, then they should have no objection to an independent investigation by a neutral country like China or Russia,” said LeT chief Mehmood Shah on Wednesday.
“We will fully cooperate in the probe and will accept the findings of the investigating agency,” he said.