Ex-JuD man shot dead in Azad Kashmir’s Rawalakot

Published September 9, 2023
A file photo of Muhammad Riaz.  — Photo by author
A file photo of Muhammad Riaz. — Photo by author

MUZAFFARABAD: An activist formerly associated with the proscribed Jamaatud Dawa was gunned down in a mosque in Azad Kashmir’s Rawalakot town on Friday, according to police.

Muhammad Riaz alias Abu Qasim Kashmiri was offering Fajr prayer in Al-Quds mosque near Sabir Shaheed Stadium when assailants fired four bullets at him. He died on the spot.

He was laid to rest in Chakswari town of Mirpur district, where he lived with his 10-member family in a rented accommodation.

According to the FIR seen by Dawn, the victim was sitting in the second row when a man wearing trousers, a shirt and a helmet fired at him.

The killer was reportedly accompanied by another man who waited in the mosque’s veranda, and the two fled after the attack, the FIR stated, while quoting the prayer leader Qari Amjad Hashmi.

He told the police that Mr Riaz stayed in the mosque overnight as his guest and was scheduled to leave on Friday.

Mr Riaz, who belonged to the Surankote area of Poonch in Indian-held Kashmir, reportedly migrated to this side of the disputed Himalayan region in the late nineties and temporarily settled in a refugee camp in Kotli district.

According to sources, he was associated with the outlawed Jamaatud Dawa before it was banned by the government in 2019.

A spokesman for the Rawalakot police said they were investigating the “blind murder from different angles”.

“The [hitherto] unknown suspect(s) would soon be traced and brought to justice,” the spokesman said and urged people to share any information they might have with the police.

‘Indian involvement’

One of Mr Riaz’s associates told Dawn, on condition of anonymity, he had “no conflict with anybody”.

“He had received threats from across the border where his father and a brother were killed by the Indian forces during the ongoing freedom movement,” the associate added.

Uzair Ghazali, a Muzaffarabad-based activist who heads an organisation of Kashmiri migrants, claimed that India’s intelligence agency R&AW was behind the killing.

“India is on a path to silence every voice raised for the right of self-determination and subsequent freedom of Jammu and Kashmir through its regular and paramilitary forces and mercenaries,” he said.

Mr Riaz is the third prominent person affiliated with independence movements in held Kashmir who has been gunned down in recent months.

Earlier, on February 20, Bashir Ahmed Peer alias Imtiyaz Alam, a former commander of Hizbul Mujahideen was killed by assailants riding a motorcycle in Rawalpindi.

Almost a week later, Syed Khalid Raza was killed in Karachi in what police had described as a “targeted attack”. He was said to be a former commander of the Al Badr Mujahideen group that operated in the held Kashmir. Without directly naming India, Syed Salahuddin, Hizbul Mujahideen’s supreme commander, said Mr Riaz was shot by the “mercenaries of the enemy.”

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2023

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