Police said a household helper was the main suspect — but a rebel group said it had targeted and killed Hemant Kumar Lohia.

Some separatist groups in India-administered Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for decades.
Some separatist groups in India-administered Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for decades. (AFP Archive)

The chief of the prison service in India-administered Kashmir has been murdered, police have said.

The body of Hemant Kumar Lohia, 57, the region's director general of prisons, was found at his friend’s home in the Jammu region overnight, police said on Tuesday.

Police said a household helper was the main suspect — but a rebel group said it had targeted and killed Lohia.

Additional Director General of Police Mukesh Singh said Lohia's throat had been cut and his body bore burns. The initial investigation suggested it was not a "terror act" but police were investigating, he said.

He told reporters that guards stationed outside the house broke into Lohia's room, which was locked from inside, after noticing a fire there.

Lohia was staying at the home of his friend, Rajiv Khajuria, on the outskirts of Jammu city along with his family because his own house was under renovation.

Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh told the media that the suspect had apparently strangled Lohia to death, slit his throat with a broken ketchup bottle and then attempted to set his body on fire.

He described the incident as "extremely unfortunate".

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Suspect held

The suspect was detained after night-long raids and his interrogation is underway, Indian media quoted police officials as saying.  

Meanwhile, the People's Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF), a relatively new group, said it had assassinated Lohia, according to several local and Indian news channels.

If the outfit turns out to be responsible, it would be the first killing of such a high-ranking official in more than 30 years of the separatist movement.

"This is just a beginning of such high-profile operations," the PAFF said in a statement on social media, adding that the killing were a "small gift" to Home Minister Amit Shah.

Shah is on a three-day visit to the region, which was stripped of its autonomy on August 5, 2019. 

Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three wars in 1948, 1965 and 1971, including two over Kashmir.

Some groups in India-administered Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence or unification with neighbouring Pakistan.

According to several human rights groups, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies