Srinagar: Mosque blast kills Kashmir cleric

The BBC's Mark Dummett said the incident marked the end of a lull in separatist violence in Kashmir

A prominent religious leader in Indian-administered Kashmir has been killed by a bomb outside a mosque in Srinagar, officials say.

Maulvi Showkat Ahmed Shah was entering the mosque when the bomb went off. At least one other person was hurt.

It is not clear who carried out the attack. The cleric was close to moderate separatist leader Yasin Malik.

The blast follows a lull in separatist violence in Kashmir, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan.

It is thought to be the first attack of its kind since 2009 when separatist leader, Fazal Haq Qureshi, survived an attempt on his life.

The cleric was entering the mosque for Friday prayers when the attackers detonated an explosive device attached to a nearby bicycle, police said.

Moderate voice

According to a BBC reporter at the scene, his supporters are waiting to bury his body, weeping and chanting pro-independence slogans.

Shopkeepers across the city have closed for the day and traffic has been suspended.

The situation in Srinagar is tense and the police and paramilitary forces have stepped up their presence on the streets.

This was the third attempt on Maulvi Showkat's life in recent years. He was a leader of the Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadith religious party, which represents the Wahabi sect of Muslims.

The party split a few years ago and Maulvi Showkat headed one of the two factions.

He was a well-known supporter of the separatist movement, which wants an independent Kashmir.

But, correspondents say, he was considered to be a moderate voice and was a close ally of the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front.

Recently he had been criticised by other separatist groups for meeting the state's governor over setting up an Islamic University in the Kashmir Valley, our correspondent says.

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