Senior separatist Hurriyat Conference leader Fazal Haque Qureshi was shot at and critically wounded outside his house by unidentified gunmen in the Jammu and Kashmir capital on Friday evening, police said. The Al-Nasreen, believed to be an off-shoot of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), has claimed responsibility for the attack.
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.
The attack on him is seen as an attempt to derail the "quiet dialogue" reportedly going on between the Union government and the Kashmiri separatist leaders.
He was shot at and critically wounded outside his Soura house on Friday evening when he was leaving for prayers at a mosque. Four men shot at him from close range.
The Al-Nasreen called up some local dailies claiming responsibility for the attack.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah condemned the attack, saying it was "an attempt to derail the peace process". The chief minister, however, hoped the attack would strengthen the people's resolve in Kashmir to pursue peace more actively.
He also said that the security of all moderate Hurriyat leaders was being reviewed.
"We are reviewing the security provided to all the moderate separatist leaders. Fazal Haque Qureshi had also been offered security, but he had declined the offer", Omar said.
Doctors at the Sher-e-Kashmir Medical Institute Soura (SKIMS) are battling hard to save Qureshi's life who was brought there in a critical condition after the attack. Doctors said a bullet has pierced his head.
Meanwhile, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, the chairman of the moderate Hurriyat group, Muhammad Yasin Malik, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and some other separatist leaders rushed to the hospital immediately after hearing about the attack.
The moderate Hurriyat group has called for a complete shutdown here Saturday to protest the dastardly attack on a senior leader of the conglomerate.
Qureshi shot into prominence in August 2000 when he mediated between a group of Hizbul Mujaheedin guerrillas and the then union home secretary.
The four commanders of the Hizbul Mujaheedin, led by the outfit's then operational chief Abdul Majid Dar, had come to hold talks with central government after Dar announced a unilateral ceasefire in July 2000.
The moderate group of the Hurriyat has been reportedly in secret talks with the Indian government to find a solution to the Kashmir issue.