Prominent Shia leader killed in J&K landmine blast
3 November 2000
The Times of India
Srinagar: A prominent Shia leader, Agha Mehdi, was killed in a landmine blast along with four others at Mazhama on Srinagar-Gulmarg road 17 km from here on Friday. And in an encounter at Wathora in Budgam, Army killed four militants belonging to Jesh Muhammad outfit on Friday. Three Sikh Regiment soldiers also died in this incident. A senior police officer told The Times of India that the car in which the former vice-president of Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) Agha Mehdi was travelling, was blown up in a land mine blast at 2.30 p.m. killing all its five occupants. Mehdi was the brother of Hurriyat leader Agha Syed Hussain and son of a close associate of late Sheikh Abdullah. He had unsuccessfully contested Lok Sabha elections twice from Srinagar constituency, as an Independent and Congress candidate. He put up a tough fight against Omar Abdullah, Union minister of state for industries and commerce in the last Lok Sabha elections. The death of Mehdi was mourned by the Shia community. All shops and business establishments remained closed in the predominantly Shia Budgam. Meanwhile, the Army killed four militants belonging to Jesh Muhammad outfit during a night-long encounter at Wathora in Budgam, 10 km from here on Friday. Three soldiers of Sikh Regiment also lost their lives while 10 residential houses caught fire during the encounter, the defence sources said. Jesh Muhammad is a militant outfit floated by Maulana Azhar Mohamood who was released in exchange of the Indian Airlines plane hijacked along with passengers on board from Kathmandu. According to reports, the Army, acting on a tip off, laid siege on a village in Wathora during the intervening night, leading to a fierce encounter with Jesh Muhammad militants. Sources said six militants were hiding in the area. The encounter left at least four militants dead. The reports available here say that besides the presence of 1,000 hardcore militants of the Hizbul Mujahideen, there is a sizable number of militants of the Jesh Muhammad outfit actively operating in Kashmir.