SRINAGAR: Normal life in Kashmir on Wednesday was disrupted by the strike called by the separatists to protest against the mysterious killings of civilians in sensitive Sopore town of North Kashmir's Baramulla district.
All shops, business establishments, educational institutions in Srinagar and other parts of the Valley remained closed while public transport was off the roads. The work in government offices, banks and courts was also affected by the shutdown.
The strike was jointly called by all top separatist leaders – Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Shabir Shah and Mohammad Yasin Malik – against the civilian killings in Sopore.
Six persons have been gunned down by unknown assailants in Sopore town, home town and stronghold of hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani, in over three weeks.
The dead include two former militants, two activists of Geelani’s hardline faction of separatist conglomerate Hurriyat Conference and two men associated with mobile business.
Unknown attackers also attacked a mobile tower in Sopore last evening. Although uneasy calm prevails in Sopore but air is thick with anxiety as residents remain clueless about the motive behind series of targeted killings.
Police have blamed Lashkar-e-Islam for the killings and term the group as breakaway group of Hizbul Mujahideen.
“We have got credible information that breakaway group of Hizb is responsible for the killings in Sopore town. This group, Lashkar-e-Islam, comprises 10-12 persons, has defied the Hizb high command and is operating on their own”, IGP Kashmir SJM Gilani told Express.
Police have detained seven persons so far but the breakthrough is still evading them.
Lashkar-e-Islam came to prominence last month for targeting people associated with mobile business after their hitech communication equipment atop a mobile tower was seized by police.
In view of sensitivity of the situation, J&K Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed today chaired a meeting of Unified Headquarters (UHQ) attended by top army, police, paramilitary and civil officials to discuss the Sopore killings.
During the meeting, Mufti expressed concern over targeted killings of civilians in Sopore and emphasized on security agencies to avoid recurrence of such incidents in future.
Sharing his concern, the security officials assured that all out efforts will be made to arrest those responsible for the killings.
Police have already issued a lookout notice for two Hizb militants Abdul Qayoom Najar and Imtiyaz Ahmad Kandoo in Sopore for their involvement in the killings.
Police said the two are part of Lashkar-e-Islam group and has announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for information leading to arrest of Najar and Kandoo.