SRINAGAR: Mysterious killings have returned to haunt the north Kashmir’s Sopore area where a young man, affiliated with Syed Ali Geelani-led Hurriyat, was shot dead in broad daylight today by unknown gunmen.

Witnesses and police sources said Hakim-ul-Rehman Sultani, who was recently released from jail where he was held on charges of stone pelting and protests, was targeted by gunmen outside his home in Reshipora Bomai area of Sopore.

Onlookers alerted his family while he was immediately shifted to Sopore sub-district hospital where doctors pronounced him dead on arrival. “It looks like a target killing. Apparently the gunmen were following him and attacked him at the place of their choosing,” a senior police officer said.

No militant outfit has claimed responsibility for the latest killing with the police investigating the case, “We have filed an FIR and the perpetrators behind the attack will be identified soon,” the police officer said.

After a break of many months, this is the first high-profile killing in Sopore area, a police district in north Kashmir where a spate of civilian killing in 2015 by suspected militants left at least two Hurriyat activists dead.

On May 4 this year, unknown gunmen barged into the home of 35-year-old Mohammad Ashraf Mir in Harwan area of Sopore and fired indiscriminately at the inmates. Ashraf was hit by five bullets and died before reaching the hospital while his wife suffered gunshot injuries in both legs.

Four days ahead of the Harwan shooting, bullet-riddled bodies of three young men were found in Baramulla’s old town. Police claimed the deceased as Asif Ahmad Sheikh, Haseeb Ahmad Khan and Mohammad Asgar were killed by Lashkar-e-Taiba militants.

In the past three years, sources said the north Kashmir districts have become a hub for foreign militants who outnumber local militants in the area as against south Kashmir where local militants are more in number.

“They take refuge in local residences and use the forested areas to hide during cordon and search operations. Often they target civilian population who refuse to follow their diktats,” sources said.

Earlier this January, in a first such case after many years, a powerful IED blast ripped through the market in Sopore town, killing at least four policemen and injuring as many.

(Cover Photo Basit Zargar)