A Kashmiri man found guilty of helping plan the 2001 attack on India's Parliament has been hanged. News of the execution threatened to undermine fragile ties as Kashmiris took to the streets in anti-India protests.
Afzal Guru was executed in New Delhi's Tihar Jail early Saturday morning. The Kashmiri, who had been found guilty of helping plot the deadly 2001 attack on India's Parliament and of belonging to the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, had recently lost his final mercy plea.
"It was the law taking its course," India's home secretary, R.K. Singh, told reporters in reaction to the execution.
On December 13, 2001, five gunmen stormed Parliament, killing nine people. The gunmen were subsequently killed while exchanging fire with security officers. In the months that followed, Indian officials brought charges against Guru, who was subsequently put on death row.
The majority Muslim state, whose northern half is controlled by Pakistan and southern half by India, has maintained a shaky relationship with New Delhi over the years, marred by violent attempts to gain independence.
An attempt by Pakistan to help Kashmir insurgents in 1989 further deterioriated relations with New Delhi. Since then, tens of thousands of civilians have died in attacks on both sides of the border, including a war in 1999, the 2001 attack on Parliament, and the 2008 attack on Mumbai.
News sparks widespread protests
Police in Kashmir issued a curfew in anticipation of a violent reaction to the news of Guru's death. But protesters across Kashmir took to the streets on Saturday anyway, ignoring the curfew, chanting "Down with India!"
Kashmir's government in the Pakistan-controlled region announced three days of mourning, according to the news agency AFP.
"The state's flag will fly half-mast during the mourning, which started from today," state government adviser Murtaza Durrani told AFP.
It was unclear from initial reports on which date Indian officials had rejected Guru's latest appeal. A family member speaking to the Associated Press news agency indicated that the decision had occurred swiftly and had not been shared with his relatives beforehand.
"Indian government has yet again functioned like a fascist state and hanged him secretly," Yasin Guru, a relative who lives in the family's compound in Sopore, told the Associated Press. "They did not have the courtesy to inform his family."
kms/mkg (AFP, Reuters, dpa)