Unknown gunmen shoot dead journalist Shujaat Bukhari and his police bodyguards outside his office in India-administered Kashmir, police and journalist's colleagues say. There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

Shujaat Bukhari was a protected journalist, guarded by two armed police round the clock, in a region where political violence and threats to journalists is common.
Shujaat Bukhari was a protected journalist, guarded by two armed police round the clock, in a region where political violence and threats to journalists is common. ( Reuters )

A senior journalist and his two police bodyguards were fatally shot on Thursday by unknown assailants in India-administered Kashmir, police and the journalist's colleagues said.

Shujaat Bukhari was shot as he left his office in Srinagar, the disputed region's main city.

Bukhari, who was a group editor for three daily newspapers and a weekly, including the English-language daily Rising Kashmir, was targeted as he was getting into his vehicle.

Bukhari and one police bodyguard were declared dead on arrival at a hospital. The other bodyguard died later.

Police said the assailants came on a motorbike and fired a volley of bullets toward the victims, leaving Bukhari and his guards in a pool of blood.

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

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

'I saw him in a pool of blood'

He died before he could get medical aid, said Mohammed Omar, the group manager of Bukhari's newspapers.

"I would always accompany him to his vehicle when he would leave the office. I did the same today but I stopped half way as I got a phone call. In the meantime as he left I heard sounds of intense firing. I rushed to his vehicle where I saw him in a pool of blood," Omar said.

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.

A protected journalist

Bukhari was a protected journalist, guarded by two armed police round the clock, in a region where political violence and threats to journalists 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.

Bukhari was an advocate for a peaceful resolution of the Kashmir dispute and was often part of peace conferences between India and Pakistan attended by former diplomats and generals from both countries.

Killing 'raises serious questions'

Thursday's incident came hours after the UN human rights chief called for an independent, international investigation into reports of rights violations in the disputed region, laying blame for civilian deaths and injuries on both Indian and Pakistani security forces.

Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh called the journalist's killing "an act of cowardice."

Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesperson Mohammad Faisal said the "targeted killing" within hours of Bukhari's tweet on the UN report is a "terrible coincidence" which "raises serious questions".

"India should investigate and ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice."

Bullet marks are seen on the car of Shujaat Bukhari, the editor of Rising Kashmir daily newspaper, after unidentified gunmen attacked him outside his office in Srinagar.
Bullet marks are seen on the car of Shujaat Bukhari, the editor of Rising Kashmir daily newspaper, after unidentified gunmen attacked him outside his office in Srinagar. ( Reuters )

Tremendous pressure on Kashmiri journalists

Journalists in Kashmir have worked under tremendous stress and have been targeted in the past, some fatally, by both the Indian state and militant groups.

In a 2016 article, Bukhari described the threat to Kashmiri journalists from the state and non-state actors in the hotly contested region. 

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but both claim it in its entirety. 

Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

India has stationed over 500,000 troops in the tiny Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies