The hardline Hurriyat Conference has condemned the killing of a civilian in North Kashmir's volatile Sopore town on Friday night.
The Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Geelani, however, clarified that the man killed at Bomai Sopore was not part of the organisation. Geelani, however, strongly condemned the killing calling the civilian "a true freedom sympathiser.''
Unidentified gunmen killed shopkeeper Khursheed Ahmad Bhat outside his residence at Bomai around 9 pm on Friday night.
"Even though he was not our activist, he was a true sympathiser of freedom movement. We condemn his killing in strong possible words," Hurriyat (Geelani) spokesman said.
This is the fourth killing of civilians in Sopore after militants started targeting telecom companies last month.
Friday's killing is a second incident of its kind in four days. On Tuesday, an activist of Geelani's Hurriyat Conference was killed in the Sopore area. The police had called the killing a retaliation of Geelani's statements condemning attacks on telecom workers.
Even the family of the victim claimed that he was not actively involved with any organisation. "He was a Geelani sympathiser and was picked up by police last year on stone pelting charges," said his younger brother Tariq Ahmad.
Tariq had come looking for his brother when the family heard gun shots late on Thursday evening. "I found him in a pool of blood, a bullet had hit him under his neck which proved fatal,'' said his brother.
The family said he was closing down his shop when gunmen fired from a close range.
Even as Hurriyat denied association of Bhat with the conglomerate, the police, however, said he was a "known sympathiser." "He was a sympathiser of Hurriyat Geelani. We, however, are investigating the motive behind his killing,'' said IG Kashmir Javeed Gillani.
Gillani reiterated that the police have identified the killers. "It's the same group led by Hizbul Mujahideen militant Qayoom Najar which was involved in the other three killings,'' Gillani said.
The police have intensified search operations as fear looms large in the area.
Trouble brewed in Sopore after two civilians, one working for a cellular company and another hosting a tower in his house, were killed last month after a mobile operator identified and removed a communication device from a mobile tower.
The attacks were condemned by Geelani and even Hibul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin.