Separatist leaders in Kashmir have condemned the murder of Rising Kashmir editor Shujaat Bukhari by suspected militants in Srinagar on Thursday evening. Militant outfits Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen blamed India for the killing, and demanded an independent investigation into it.

“Deeply saddened and shocked by the tragic news of Shujaat Bukhari’s killing!” Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said on Twitter. “Such inhumanity is unpardonable and condemned in the strongest terms! Proud son of the soil his death is a huge loss.”

Farooq added that the journalist was “an erudite intellectual, a fearless journalist and above all a selfless human”.

Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front leader Mohammad Yasin Malik called the incident a direct assault on freedom of speech and expression, PTI reported. He said Kashmir had “lost a balanced voice at the hands of ruthless assailants”.

Hurriyat leader Syed Ali Geelani said it is against moral and human ethics to kill a person without any justification, Rising Kashmir reported. He said difference of opinion is not a reason to kill someone.

Earlier on Friday, hundreds of people, including journalists, politicians and friends, joined Bukhari’s funeral procession. Mourners followed the cortege even as it rained in Baramulla, where his ancestral village is located. Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and Opposition leader Omar Abdullah had offered their condolences on Thursday.

Militant outfits’ reaction

Militant organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba condemned Bukhari’s killing and blamed Indian agencies’ “enmity” towards every individual who is “loyal to the freedom movement”, according to GNS Kashmir.

Lashkar-e-Taiba spokesperson Abdullah Ghazanwi, in a statement quoting the outfit’s chief Mahmood Shah, said the killing was a “conspiracy hatched to suppress the voice of indigenous freedom struggle”. “Indian agencies have enmity towards every individual who is loyal to the freedom movement,” he said. “The world must pay attention to India’s vicious and ill-fated conspiracies.”

Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin said the murder after a United Nations report on alleged human rights abuses by Indian forces in Kashmir “raises many questions”, the Hindustan Times reported. India has rejected the report.