Assailants shoot and kill prominent Kashmir lawyer

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — A prominent lawyer was fatally shot by assailants in the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir, police and the victim’s relatives said Friday.

Babar Qadri was shot Thursday evening at his home in Srinagar by unidentified gunmen. Police blamed militants fighting against Indian rule and said they formed a special investigation team.

“We will arrest them as soon as possible and if we cannot arrest them, we will try to neutralize them in an encounter. This case is a top priority for us,” Inspector General Vijay Kumar said in a news conference.

Qadri’s relatives said two men came to his home and posed as his clients. As Qadri came out, they fired at him and fled, they said. Qadri was rushed to a hospital where doctors declared him dead.

Qadri, in his late 30s, was an outspoken debater on India’s television news channels where he would seek to defend Kashmir’s right to self-determination.

In one of recent debates, he shouted “Down with India!” in a response to the chant “Down with Pakistan!” by the news channel’s anchor.

In recent days, Qadri was locked in a bitter feud with some lawyers about the work of the bar association.

Kashmir is no stranger to targeted killings since 1989, when an armed rebellion erupted against Indian rule in the disputed region. Hundreds have been killed in such ways and human rights groups have blamed both militants and Indian troops for covert killings.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both rivals claim the region in its entirety. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

New Delhi calls Kashmir militancy Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris call it a legitimate freedom struggle. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.

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