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Police arrest fourth suspect in journalist Bukhari’s murder within hours of releasing his picture

As a man pulls out journalist Shujaat Bukhari’s guard, the suspect is seen picking up his pistol and disappearing from the scene even though police were present on the spot.

india Updated: Jun 15, 2018 23:08 IST
Mir Ehsan
Mir Ehsan
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Shujaat Bukhari,Shujaat Bukhari killing,Jammu and Kashmir Police
The police issued the picture from a video, which was purportedly recorded by a passerby following the attack on Bukhari outside his office, showing a bearded man surveying the inside of the journalist’s vehicle.(ANI/Twitter)

Jammu and Kashmir police arrested one suspect in the killing of senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari and released the photos of three others captured on cameras near the place he was shot to death, as thousands of mourners braved heavy rain to attend his funeral on Friday.

The 50-year-old editor of Rising Kashmir and two of his personal security officers were killed on Thursday evening in a drive-by shooting by suspected terrorists that sparked outrage in the troubled Kashmir valley and condemnation by political leaders across the party divide.

Jammu and Kashmir Police said they suspected three motorcycle-borne men were involved in the murder. The arrested suspect, Zubair Qadri, was seen in a video stealing the pistol of one of the officers shot dead along with Bukhari, said inspector general of police Swayam Prakash Pani.

“The pistol has since been recovered and he is being questioned about his presence at the scene of the crime. So far, he has not been able to give any convincing answers,” Pani added.

The police have formed a special investigation team to probe the killing, said Pani, who described the killing of the journalist as a terror attack. The identities of the three other gunmen are still being ascertained. Police officers said on condition of anonymity that they had collected empty shells from the murder site to ascertain what weapons had been used in the killing.

“It’s a very sad incident. The Jammu and Kashmir chief minister has already ordered a probe into the matter. The accused will not be able to escape. We will take strict action against the miscreants. Nobody will be spared,” minister of state for home Hansraj Ahir told reporters in Mumbai.

Earlier in the day, amid a pall of gloom, Bukhari’s funeral procession traversed the one-kilometre distance from his ancestral home in Kreeri, 37 kilometers from Srinagar in Baramulla district, to the graveyard where his body was laid to rest as young men chanted religious slogans.

The body of Bukhari was brought to Kreeri from Srinagar on Thursday night hours after he was killed. Bukhari was in his car, having just left his Press Colony office just before Iftar, when he was targeted by the gunmen Mourners from the valley assembled in his house through the night.

Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who was among the first to visit the family, had called for unity. “Terrorism has hit a new low with Shujaat’s killing. That too, on the eve of Eid,” she tweeted hours after the murder.

The shooting came just two days before Eid amid speculation whether the Centre will extend a pause on counter-insurgency operations, which was announced on May 16 and is set to lapse after Eid.

Kashmir has been roiled by unrest in recent weeks, with a number of grenade attacks on security forces, and street clashes after a Kashmiri man was run over by a paramilitary vehicle that was targeted by protesters.

The body of the senior journalist, who championed peace in the valley torn by almost three decades of violence that India says is fomented by Pakistan, was taken at 11 a.m. to the funeral ground where journalists, politicians, social activists, prominent civilians and local villagers were among the thousands in attendance.

Senior ministers in the J&K government Abdul Rehman Veeri, Altaf Bukhari and Naem Akthar, several legislators and leaders of mainstream political parties attended the funeral. National Conference vice president and former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah also participated in Bukhari’s final journey.

“It is not a loss only to our family, but to entire Kashmir, especially the journalist fraternity,’’ said Tariq Ahmad, a cousin of Bukhari. “This death has left us devastated. We have no words to express our grief,’’ said another relative, Shabir Ahmad.

A journalist for more than three decades, Bukhari established Rising Kashmir a little over 10 years ago. The paper published a tribute to Bukhari on its front page and said it won’t be cowed down by his killing.

“You left all too sudden but you will always be our leading light with your professional conviction and exemplary courage. We won’t be cowed down by the cowards who snatched you from us. We will uphold your principle of telling the truth howsoever unpleasant it may be...Rest in peace!” the tribute read.

Bukhari is survived by his wife, two children and elderly parents.

(with agency inputs)

First Published: Jun 15, 2018 17:24 IST