Saturday, April 9, 2011

Maulana Showkat Ahmad Shah Assassinated

Srinagar, Apr 08: Kashmir plunged into still murkier depths on Friday as senior separatist leader and chief of the influential Jami’at-e-Ahl-e-Hadees, Maulana Showkat Ahmad Shah, was assassinated in a remote-controlled blast at the gates of a central Srinagar mosque shortly before weekly congregational prayers.

The targeted bombing at the mosque, a disturbing first for conflict-torn Kashmir, silenced another moderate figure in Kashmir politics, reviving a tradition that has claimed a number of religious leaders in the past twenty two years, apart from politicians advocating a conciliatory line.

This was the second major attack on a moderate separatist since 2009 when veteran pro-freedom leader Fazl-ul-Haq Qureshi, a strong and active votary of the dialogue path, was left virtually crippled by an armed attempt on his life.

Maulana Shah’s assassination sparked off violence in the heart of Srinagar, with groups of youth clashing with the police, and the government sounded a valley-wide red alert to prevent the situation from escalating, even as paramilitary troopers held flag marches in the city’s nerve centre which shut down completely immediately after the blast.

The deadly attack had been calibrated with precision to the Maulana’s customary movements, using an improvised explosive device (IED) planted on a bicycle parked near the rear entrance of the Ahl-e-Hadees mosque in the congested and busy Gaw Kadal area in the commercial hub of Srinagar.

It was carried out at around 12:30 in the afternoon just as Maulana Shah was stepping into the mosque premises on his usual route to lead Friday prayers, the powerful explosion rocking the area, and leaving several other people injured, one of them critically.

A close associate of the JKLF chief, Muhammad Yasin Malik, Maulana Shah had emerged as a strong voice for inter-sect unity among Kashmiri Muslims, despite heading an organisation generally considered to hold rigid doctrinal views.

He is the third religious leader of the Kashmiri separatist camp to have fallen to assassins after Maulana Muhammad Farooq and Qazi Nisar Ahmad. (KO NEWS)

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