Kreeri (Jammu and Kashmir), June 15 (IANS) Police on Friday arrested a suspect in the murder of senior journalist Shujaat Bukhari, who was on Friday laid to rest in this north Kashmir village as thousands of mourners braving heavy rains bid an emotional adieu to one of the most popular scribes in the state.
Bukhari was shot dead on Thursday evening along with his two police guards outside his newspaper office in Press Enclave near Srinagar’s Lal Chowk.
The shocking murder has triggered a state-wide manhunt as police claimed to have arrested one of the suspects – a man with flowing beard, sporting a skull cap.
Pictures and a video shot minutes after the murders showed the man may have been the first to reach the murder spot and was trying to help the injured in Bukhari’s car after militants fired a volley of gunfire at him.
The man is seen kneeling down to collect something near the car. Police sources said he may have picked up a pistol of Bukhari’s personal security officer after which he disappeared from the site.
Police sources said the suspect was most likely part of the team of assassins. “He has been arrested and his interrogation is going on,” a source said.
Police said the suspect, who has not been named, may hold a key link to the fatal attack on Bukhari, the founding editor-in-chief of “Rising Kashmir” English language newspaper.
Nobody among the journalist fraternity could immediately recognize who the man is in the video. The nearly one-acre colony houses offices of many local, national and international news organisations and journalists and non-journalistic staff working there know each other.
On Thursday evening, police in Srinagar released CCTV footage of the alleged attackers, asking people to help to identify the accused. The footage showed three masked men escaping on a motorcycle from the Press Enclave.
State police chief S.P. Vaid told reporters in Srinagar on Friday: “Rest assured, we will get the killers.”
In Kreeri town in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district where Bukhari was born 50 years ago, mourners took out a long and winding procession pay homage to the journalist during his last rites.
A pall of gloom enveloped Bukhari’s ancestral hometown on the eve of Eid – Muslim festivity that marks the end of month of fasting.
Kreeri and nearby villages observed a spontaneous strike during the funeral with all shops shut. People thronged in droves, many crying loudly and many more beating their chests, as Bukhari wrapped in a white shroud was lowered in the grave.
His elderly father, Syed Rafi ud Din Bukhari, led the mourners. The senior Bukhari was crying unconsolably, sitting on the grave as people jostled to throw customary handfuls of soil into to fill the pit grave.
The mourners included senior ministers in the Jammu and Kashmir government, Abdul Rehman Veeri, Altaf Bukhari and Naem Akthar, several legislators, former Chief Minister and National Conference President Omar Abdullah, senior Congress leader Saifuddin Soz, journalists and people from all sections of the society.
Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti also went to Kreeri and offered her condolences to the family at Bukhari’s home with women members of the family.
Bukhari, 50, was gunned down on Thursday evening soon after he got into his car from his office. He is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.