Kashmir cleric opposing stone throwing killed in blast

Police suspect that militants used an IED planted on a bicycle outside the Ahilhadith mosque.

Last Updated: Apr 09, 2011, 00:45 AM IST

Srinagar: Prominent Kashmiri religious leader Maulana Showkat Shah, whose fierce opposition to last year`s stone throwing youngsters had led to his being dubbed an "Indian agent" and receiving death threats, was killed here Friday in a powerful bomb explosion outside a mosque.

The bomb, an improvised explosive device (IED), was placed on a bicycle outside the Ahilhadith mosque in Gaw Kadal area adjacent to city centre Lal Chowk and triggered when Shah reached the spot and was about to enter the mosque for Friday prayers. The blast was so powerful that the building sustained major damage.
Shah was taken to the SMHS Hospital where doctors pronounced him dead.

A man, identified as Mukhtar Ahmad Mir, resident of Maisuma, was also critically injured in the explosion and is battling for life in the hospital.

Shah`s death triggered a spontaneous shutdown that crippled life in the city and thousands of mourners joined the `Nimaz-e-Jinaza` (funeral prayers).

Senior separatist leaders, including Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, chairman of the moderate Hurriyat group, Muhammad Yasin Malik, chairman of the pro-freedom Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), Professor Abdul Gani Bhat, former chairman of moderate Hurriyat, Bilal Gani Lone, chief of Peoples` Conference, and Nayeem Khan, chief of separatist Democratic Front, offered the `Nimaz-e-Jinaza` in Lal Chowk.

The body of the slain religious leader was then taken to his home in Lal Bazar area of the city where other family members joined the funeral procession to the martyrs` graveyard where Shah was laid to rest amid shouting of pro-freedom slogans.

The Mirwaiz has called for a valley-wide shutdown Saturday to protest the killing.

Although heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces had been made throughout the city in the wake of the cleric`s killing, the security forces did not intervene to stop the funeral procession anywhere.
Despite the high tension that gripped the city after the news spread about death of the religious leader, no untoward incident occurred anywhere.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, union minister and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, former chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, assembly Speaker Muhammad Akbar Lone, Congress state chief Saifuddin Soz and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Muhammad Yusuf Tarigami have strongly condemned the killing.

Muzaffarabad-based United Jehad Council (UJC), a conglomerate of separatist guerrilla groups headed by Syed Salahuddin, who is the supreme commander of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), also has condemned Showkat Shah`s killing in a statement mailed to the local newspaper offices.

Shah is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

Shah was the cleric Of the Jamiat-e-Ahlehadees - a highly puritanical group of Muslims closer to the Wahabi school of thought in Saudi Arabia, which has gained a large following in the Kashmir Valley in recent years.

He was not a member of either Hurriyat group but had a close relationship with JKLF`s Yasin Malik.

He had been a trenchant critic of last year`s stone throwing youngsters.

Shah had even issued a fatwa against it, earning for himself abuse, death threats and the tag of being an "Indian agent".

IANS