HomeMiddle EastKashmir police arrest suspect in murder of top prison official

Kashmir police arrest suspect in murder of top prison official

Hemant Kumar Lohia’s domestic worker is the main accused in the killing, which has also been claimed by a rebel group.

Police in Indian-administered Kashmir say they have arrested the main suspect in the killing of the region’s top prison official.

The body of Hemant Kumar Lohia, 57, was found on Monday night under suspicious circumstances at the home of his friend in the city of Jammu in the southern part of Indian-administered Kashmir.

In a tweet on Tuesday, the police said they have arrested Lohia’s domestic worker, 23-year-old Yasir Ahmad, as a suspect after “a major manhunt”.

“Interrogation of the accused has started,” the police statement posted on Twitter added.

The People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF), which police say is an offshoot of the Pakistan-based armed group, Jaish-e-Muhammad, has claimed responsibility for the murder.

“Our special squad carried out an intelligence-based operation in Udaiwala in Jammu,” said a statement posted by the PAFF on social media. “This is just a beginning of such high profile operations.”

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the authenticity of the PAFF statement. Ahmad’s links with the rebel group have not yet been established by the authorities.

The police, however, denied any terrorist angle behind the killing. “No terror act is apparent as per initial investigation but thorough probe is on to rule out any possibility,” a statement released by the police said.

Police said the weapon used to slit Lohia’s throat has been seized with some documents suggesting the domestic worker may have had mental health problems.

“Initial investigations reveal that he (Ahmad) was quite aggressive in his behaviour and was also under depression as per sources,” they said.

The police statement said security camera footage collected from the scene of the crime showed the suspect running away from the house moments after Lohia was killed.

Home minister’s visit

The PAFF statement also said Lohia’s killing was a “small gift” to India’s federal home affairs minister Amit Shah, who arrived in Indian-administered Kashmir on Monday on a three-day visit.

Ahead of the visit, suspected rebels carried out two separate attacks in the last three days.

On Monday, a bank manager escaped unhurt after he was shot at by attackers in Baramulla district. A day earlier, a policeman was killed and a paramilitary soldier wounded when they were attacked by suspected rebels in Pulwama district.

Shah is close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and was instrumental in stripping India’s only Muslim-majority region of its limited autonomy in 2019. The move divided the region into two federally controlled territories and kickstarted a series of laws and policies which Kashmiris say are aimed at changing the demography of the region and denying them rights over their lands and livelihoods.

The disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir is controlled in parts by India and Pakistan, but claimed by both the South Asian nuclear powers in full. Since their independence from British rule in 1947, the two countries have fought two of their three full-scale wars over Kashmir.

Since the late 1980s, Kashmiri rebels have been waging an armed rebellion against Indian rule with an aim to either merge with Pakistan or create an independent Kashmir nation. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict since 1989.

While rebels often target Indian government officials deployed in the region, Lohia’s killing is the first targeting a high-ranking official in several years.

Lohia was appointed to take charge of the prisons in Indian-administered Kashmir in August this year. He was living at his friend’s house with his family since his official residence was undergoing renovations.

The suspect, Ahmad, who is from the region’s Ramban district, had started working for Lohia six months ago.

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