Masked gunmen shot to death the former leader of Kashmir's largest Islamic rebel group Sunday in what may have been retribution for his talks with the Indian government, police said.
The slaying of Abdul Majid Dar, former Kashmir commander of the Hezb-ul-Moujahedeen, was a setback for Indian security authorities, who were trying to persuade him to take a political role in the state racked by separatist violence.
Dar was fatally shot in the town of Sopur, a separatist stronghold 35 miles north of Srinagar, the summer capital of India's Jammu and Kashmir state.
Dar's mother and sister were injured in the shooting, said K. Rajindra Kumar, police inspector general.
Local news agencies in Srinagar received calls from two separatist groups, the Save Kashmir Movement and Al Nasreen, that claimed responsibility.
Dar was supervising construction at a new house in Sopur when the gunmen drove up and shot him, Kumar said.
Kumar said he suspects the gunmen were linked to hard-line members of Hezb-ul-Moujahedeen. Hezb is the largest rebel group in Kashmir, where more than 61,000 people have been killed since 1989.
In Pakistan, Hezb spokesman Salim Hashmi said: "The death of Abdul Majid Dar is shocking for us, but we do not know what exactly happened to him. We will issue a detailed statement after we get information from our own sources in Indian-occupied Kashmir."