Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Mosque blast kills Muslim leader

Kashmiri Muslims crowd around the body of Moulvi Showkat Ahmed Shah (AP)

A blast outside a mosque in the Indian portion of Kashmir has killed a prominent Muslim religious leader and wounded a bystander, police said.

Moulvi Showkat Ahmed Shah, the president of the religious group Jamiat-e-ahle Hadith, was nearing the mosque in Srinagar to lead Friday prayers when the explosion occurred.

Police believe an explosive was tied to a parked bicycle and triggered by remote control. "It seems he (Mr Shah) was the target," Shiv Murari Sahai, an inspector-general of police, told reporters.

Jamiat-e-ahle Hadith has nearly a million members in the Indian portion of Kashmir and runs about 600 mosques and religious schools.

He was considered a moderate leader and a close ally of the pro-independence Jammu-Kashmir liberation Front. But he had condemned the common practice of throwing stones at government forces as part of resistance against Indian rule in the region.

He was not liked by rebel groups, and his home was hit by a grenade in 2008, police said.

However, the United Jehad Council, an umbrella organisation of more than a dozen rebel groups based in the Pakistani portion of Kashmir, condemned Mr Shah's killing and said it was "the handiwork of Indian agencies".

The All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of separatist political and religious groups in the Indian portion of Kashmir, offered condolences for Mr Shah's death and called a general strike for Saturday.

Since 1989, more than a dozen Islamic militant groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with neighbouring Pakistan. More than 68,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the conflict.

India accuses Pakistan of training and arming the insurgents, a charge Islamabad denies. India and Pakistan have recently resumed peace talks that were interrupted by the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008.

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