SRINAGAR: Hundreds of people gathered in south Kashmir's Shopian town today amid a spontaneous shutdown to attend the funeral prayers of a middle-aged cable operator who was shot dead by suspected militants yesterday.

Hilal Ahmad Malik, a resident of Shopian, was shot outside District Hospital in the district last evening by two masked gunmen. He was immediately rushed to a hospital from where he was referred to Srinagar for specialised treatment.

Officials said Malik died on way to Srinagar. "He is survived by his wife and a minor child. Hundreds of people attended his funeral prayers amid a spontaneous shutdown in the Shopian town," witnesses said.

The killing has sparked tension in the restive Shopian where the bullet riddled body of a first year student identified as Gowhar Ahmad Dar, a resident of Urpara Nagbal, was discovered barely a kilometre away from his home earlier on Sunday.

The student had a lethal bullet wound on his forehead besides other injuries, police said, adding that they suspect the role of militants in the killing. "As per our information, Zubair Turray of Hizb is behind the killing of Hilal while investigations are on the identity the culprits of Gowhar's killing," a senior police officer said.

No militant outfit has claimed responsibility for yesterday's killings which came a day after suspected militants gunned down an activist of the ruling People’s Democratic Party in Dialgam area of Anantnag on Saturday.

Officials said two to three gunmen barged into the house of Ishaq Parray at Ugjan village in Dialgam and fired at him indiscriminately. Parray was rushed to a local hospital where doctors pronounced him as dead on arrival.

The four districts - Shopian, Anantnag, Kulgam and Pulwama - of south Kashmir have been simmering with protests and clashes between residents and government forces since last year's killing of Hizb commander Burhan Wani.

According to police data, more than 100 locals have joined militant ranks from these districts since the July 8 encounter of Burhan while many more are waiting in line because of the dearth of weaponry.

Meanwhile, a former Panch of the People's Democratic Party, was found dead under mysterious circumstances today close to his residence in Shangus area of Anantnag district. Police said the body of Shakil Ahmad Wani, a resident of Wakeelban village in Shangus, was found close to his under-construction home in the area.

"He had left old home early in the morning to check the ongoing work of their new home. There is a visible injury mark on his head. The body has been sent for post-mortem examination which will confirm the cause of his death. A case has been registered and investigations are underway," SP Pani, a senior police officer in south Kashmir, said.

(Cover Photograph from Kashmir Life, by Sheikh Hilal )