Three people associated with militant groups in India and Pakistan have been accused of being involved in the murder of senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari, police in Jammu and Kashmir said on Wednesday.
One of the accused, Naveed Jatt, is a member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a United Nations-designated terrorist organization in Pakistan. Earlier this year, Jatt escaped from police custody while being taken to a hospital in Srinagar. The two other suspects are believed to be residents of South Kashmir, according to Indian media.
Bukhari, who had been editor-in-chief of the Rising Kashmir newspaper, was shot dead in his car by three men on a motorcycle on June 14. Two of his personal security officers accompanying him were also killed.
A special investigation team from the Jammu and Kashmir police identified the three men based on CCTV footage. Police said they would release more details about the case late on Thursday.
Police sources told the Hindustan Times that Bukhari was killed on orders from Pakistan and most possibly because he was making efforts to promote peace in the conflict-ridden Valley.
However, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) has refuted allegations about its members being involved in the killing, calling the accusations an attempt to defame the organization.
LeT chief Mahmood Shah told the media: “We would like to call their [Indian Army’s] bluff. If Indian forces are truly convinced that this heinous crime was committed by mujahideen [LeT members], then they should have no objection to an independent investigation of this murder by a neutral country such as China or Russia. We would fully cooperate in the investigation and accept the findings of the investigating agency.”
Sajjad Gul, a Pakistan-based blogger originally from Kashmir, was also on the police radar for allegedly playing a part in Bukhari’s assassination. His blog ran a hate campaign against Bukhari and many others, including journalists and activists.
Asia Times reported that late last year Indian security agencies picked up intercepts, which showed a possible threat to Bukhari and others. One of those named confirmed receiving warnings and threats from militant groups.
Government sources have said Bukhari’s assassination was carefully planned. They found that a number of reconnaissance missions were mounted to check the placement of CCTV cameras.
Investigators said the assailants had checked Bukhari’s movements and his daily schedule before deciding to shoot him outside his office because it offered a better escape route.