Veteran journalist shot dead in Indian Kashmir

The body of slain Kashmir journalist Shujaat Bukhari slumped in the back seat of his car

Srinagar (India) (AFP) - Unknown gunmen shot a veteran journalist and his police bodyguard dead on Thursday in the main city of violence-plagued Indian Kashmir, police and witnesses said. 

Shujaat Bukhari, editor of an English language daily Rising Kashmir, had just entered his vehicle outside his office in the city's press enclave when assailants fired several shots from close range.

"He (Bukhari) is no more. One of his two police bodyguards also died in the attack," a top police officer told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Another police guard and the vehicle driver were critically wounded in the attack.

Fellow journalists were on the scene soon afterward. Bukhari was slumped over in the back seat, and one of the police bodyguards had a gruesome head wound.

Bukhari was a protected journalist, guarded by two armed police around the clock, in an area of India where political violence and threats to reporters is common.

His final tweet, sent just a few hours before his murder, was a link to his website's reporting of the UN human rights chief calling for a major investigation into abuses committed by both India and Pakistan in Kashmir.

Amnesty India described Bukhari as "a brave and outspoken voice for justice and equality in Jammu and Kashmir".

"This is a grave attack on press freedom and democratic voices," the Editors Guild of India added on Twitter. 

Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh described Bukhari's murder as an "act of cowardice".

"It is an attempt to silence the saner voices of Kashmir. He was a courageous and fearless journalist," he added. 

Witnesses said Bukhari died on the spot while the assailants fled immediately.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

Rebel groups fighting Indian rule of Kashmir as well as government forces have been accused in the past of abducting, attacking and threatening journalists. 

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end British colonial rule in 1947. Both countries claim the former Himalayan kingdom in its entirety.

The attack comes one day before the end of a unilateral halt in military operations against the rebels for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Rebel groups fighting for independence of Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan have rejected the brief religious "ceasefire".

©Agence France Presse