Claiming a breakthrough in Shujaat Bukhari murder case, the Jammu and Kashmir Police Thursday claimed that their hectic fortnight-long investigation has traced the conspiracy to a Pakistan-based Kashmiri blogger Sajad Gul whose arrest will be sought through Interpol by managing a Red Corner Notice.
Sharing details of the investigation with reporter here, IGP Kashmir Swayam Prakash Pani said three Kashmir-based Laskhar-e-Toiba operatives along with a Pakistani militant Naveed Jhat, who escaped the police custody in January, executed the plan that was conceived in Pakistan. Naveed, Pani said, was accompanied by a Kulgam resident Azad Malik alias Dada and Muzaffar Ahmad alias Talha from Anantnag when the trio shot dead Bukhari outside his office on June 14. Pani also hinted that the authorities might invoke Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between India and Pakistan to seek further details on Gul's role from Islamabad.
Earlier, Lashkar-e-Toiba in a statement denied any role in the assassination saying it was ready to cooperate in an international probe into the incident. United Jehad Council, an amalgam of various militant outfits based in Pakistan too has distanced itself from the allegations that militants had a role in the assassination. The UJC Chief Syed Salahuddin in a statement had also sought international probe into the incident.
Addressing a press conference at police control room here, IG Kashmir said that the special investigation team comprising deputy inspector general of police (DIG) central Kashmir range V K Birdhi, senior superintended of Police (SSP) Srinagar Imtiaz Ismail and a team of other senior officials identified four people involved in the conspiracy to kill Shujaat.
Releasing the photographs of four persons, the Kashmir police chief said all the "four accused" are now wanted by the law for their involvement in Shujaat's killing. "During the course of investigations, two links surfaced—conspiracy and execution," said Pani, who was flanked by Birdhi and Ismail.
He said that there was a malicious social media campaign against Shujaat and some intimidating posts were in the public domain. "There was a facebook account in the name of Kadwa Sach (Bitter Truth). A twitter handle in the name of Ahmed Khalid, ahmedkhalid@313 was also running the smear campaign," the IGP Kashmir said. "We have tangible evidence that these accounts were run by a person identified as Sajad Gul from Pakistan."
Gul, a resident of Srinagar, the police chief said was arrested twice in connection with militancy related cases. "Gul was first arrested by Delhi police in 2002 and also in 2016 by Kashmir police at HMT. In March 2017, he managed to obtain the passport fraudulently and is based in Pakistan since then," Pani said.
The IGP claimed the Gul was currently in Pakistan where he was affiliated to LeT. About the three pictures of Lashkar-e-Toiba militants, the IGP identified them as wanted Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Naveed Jhat, who escaped police custody from a Srinagar hospital in February this year, Muzafar Ahmed alias Talha, a resident of Sopat, Qazigund. "Muzaffar is active since January 2018," he said. "The third one is Azad Ahmed Malik alias Dada, alias Zaid a resident of Arwani, Bijbehara who is active since December 2016."
Pani said that police will approach the court for non-bailable warrant against the three accused. "We will also seek Interpol red notice since one of the accused is in Pakistan," he said. The police chief also hinted that authorities might share evidence on Gul's role with Pakistan through mutual legal assistance treaty.
About the person who was arrested for picking up the pistol from one of the Shujaat's dead guards, the IGP said that person was Zubair Qayoom from Srinagar. "We have recovered the weapon and seized his phones. We are further investigating if he had any role in the murder plot."
He said Shujaat's killing was a "big case" and police had on the very first day stated that "it was a militancy related act." Shujaat, who was the editor-in-chief of daily Rising Kashmir, was killed on June 14 along with his two personnel security officers (PSOs) at press enclave Srinagar, when he had boarded his vehicle to leave for home. His killing triggered widespread condemnation from the journalist fraternity.