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Kashmiri separatist leader shot, critically wounded

File photo of Fazal-Haq Qureshi in Srinagar, August 1, 2000. REUTERS/Fayaz Kabli

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - A senior leader of Kashmir’s All Parties Hurriyat (Freedom) Conference was seriously wounded on Friday when unidentified gunmen fired at him near his house, police and hospital officials said.

The attack on Fazal-Haq Qureshi, an executive member of the APHC, comes days after authorities said they had held secret talks with the chief of the separatist alliance.

No militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but police blamed separatist militants, who oppose talks with India, aimed at ending a decades-old dispute over the Himalayan region.

“Qureshi is suffering a serious head injury and his condition is critical,” Anil Dhar, a doctor attending Qureshi, told Reuters.

Qureshi, chief of the People’s Political Front, a part of Hurriyat, rose to prominence in 2000 when he arranged a temporary ceasefire between Indian troops and the region’s biggest rebel group, Hizbul Mujahideen.

Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, who condemned the shooting, said the attack on Qureshi was an attempt to derail the peace process.

Chairman of Hurriyat, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, was reported to have held peace talks with Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram in New Delhi last month.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed since an anti-India insurgency broke out in the region in 1989.

Reporting by Sheikh Mushtaq; Editing by Rina Chandran