Veteran journalist was killed by gunmen on June 14, a day after being chased by bike-borne assailants while he was heading for an Iftar.
Pointing to grave lapses on the part of the security apparatus, the investigation into the assassination of journalist and editor of Rising Kashmir Shujaat Bukhari in 2018, has found that the June 14 incident was the second attempt within 24 hours.
One year after the crime, the police investigation suggested that Bukhari was chased by six men on two motorcycles around 7.15 p.m. on June 13, 2018 from Srinagar’s Press Enclave.
The assailants drove very close to the editor’s SUV, crossing the Kothi Bagh Police Station and Polo View.
Saved by speed
According to investigators, the aim was to kill the veteran journalist on the wider stretch of road connecting Polo View with Doordarshan Road. However, the gunmen failed to pull out their guns as Bukhari’s driver was driving very fast to reach an Iftar organised by a businessman at Hotel Sarovar Portico in Sonawar.
The gunmen gave up and vanished towards the Dalgate area.
Contrary to the belief that three armed men on one motorcycle killed Bukhari, investigations suggest that two motorcycles were again stationed during Iftar near the Press Enclave to ensure “the plot does not fail on June 14”, around the same time it was attempted 24 hours ago.
The three gunmen on one bike managed to kill Bukhari and his two guards instantly preventing any involvement of the men on the other bike, the police investigation suggests. The probe, however, reflects a complete lapse on the part of the security agencies to spot six armed men on June 13 in Srinagar’s commercial hub Lal Chowk and the subsequent failure to thwart the second attempt within 24 hours.
The police have identified the owner of the blue bike used in the attack as a resident of Srinagar, who is reportedly missing since then.
Though no chargesheet has been filed against the three identified militants of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the police still term them “the main suspects”.
Two of the five accused in the conspiracy, including LeT commander Naveed Jatt and Azad Ahmad Malik alias Dada from Anantnag, were killed in two separate operations last year. Muzaffar Bhat, alias Abu Talha from Kulgam and Sheikh Sajad Gul from Srinagar are on the run. Gul is believed to be in Pakistan.
Zubair Ahmed Bhat, a suspect seen stealing a pistol at the spot on the day of incident, has been charged for theft and illegal possession of the weapons under Sections 379 RPC and 7/25 Arms Act and is currently out on bail from the trial court.
The J&K police has told the trial court that the final chargesheet is pending against the other accused as details from the United States sought under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) and Red Notice issued against Gul were pending. Besides, forensic reports on the cartridges found at the spot were awaited.
The police special investigation team has told the court that three more persons have been arrested “for their alleged role in arranging the logistics”.(The Hindu)