SRINAGAR, India, Asharq al-Awsat and Agencies – As Kashmir struggles with relief and rehabilitation after the devastating earthquake, suspected Islamic militants killed the education minister of Indian-controlled Kashmir Tuesday, during a brazen raid, days after top insurgents ordered a suspension of attacks in the aftermath of South Asia”s earthquake.
Ghulam Nabi Lone, 62, was the third senior Indian official killed by insurgents since 2000, and each of the previous slayings led to major military clampdowns in Kashmir and ratcheted up tension between India and rival Pakistan, both of which claim all the Himalayan territory.
Hours after the killing, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh called the slaying "dastardly" and said in a statement that "efforts to hamper the earthquake relief work and disturb peace in the state will be thwarted."
In Pakistan”s capital, Islamabad, a Foreign Ministry statement condemned Lone”s killing, saying the country is "against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations."
According to Srinagar police, the attack began at nine o”clock in the morning when two militants hurled a grenade at paramilitary soldiers guarding a residential compound in central Srinagar where lawmakers and ministers lived.
The militants then entered the complex, killing one paramilitary soldier and injuring four others, before barging into the home of a lawmaker and firing indiscriminately, said police Supt. Munir Khan. The lawmaker, Yusuf Tarigami, escaped unhurt but a security guard was killed.
The militants then scaled a wall to enter Lone”s house next door and resumed firing, hitting Lone and injuring at least four other people at the minister”s house, Khan said, adding that the education minister died on the way to a hospital.
One of the attackers was killed by soldiers at Lone”s house, and a standoff with the surviving rebel lasted nearly three hours before he escaped, said S. S. Sandhu, inspector general of the Central Reserve Police Force, which guards the residential enclave.
Amid the standoff, the Al-Mansoorian militant group claimed the responsibility for the attack in the Tulsi Bagh area of Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian”s part of Kashmir, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.
However, another militant group, Islamic Front, also claimed responsibility for the attack in a call to Current News Service, a news agency based in Srinagar. The caller did not identify himself, the agency reported.
The attack came despite an order from the United Jihad
Council, an umbrella organization of militant groups, to suspend attacks in the region hit by the Oct. 8 quake that devastated parts of Indian-controlled Kashmir and a wide swath of Pakistan”s portion of the Himalayan territory.
Former militants, analysts and Western diplomats have said militant groups, many of which are based in Pakistani Kashmir, suffered serious losses in the earthquake.
Mehbooba Mufti, a lawmaker and daughter of the state chief minister Mufti Mohd Sayeed told media that the recent attack by militants was due to fear of a rapprochement between India and Kashmir following the recent earthquake that has affected both countries.
The government of Jammu and Kashmir has announced one day of national mourning for the death of the minister.