NEW DELHI, India -- A prominent physician with close ties to Muslim separatists in northern Kashmir state was abducted by unknown kidnappers and shot dead Thursday, and his brother-in-law was slain when security forces in the troubled region opened fire on the doctor's funeral procession.
The Press Trust of India news agency quoted police in northern Jammu and Kashmir state as saying Dr. Abdul Ahad Guroo, the head of the cardiology department at Soura Institute of Medical Sciences in the state capital of Srinagar, was abducted by suspected militants and shot dead.
The area's two largest militant groups, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and the Hizbul Mujahideen, issued a statement in Pakistan flatly denying the police claim and charging that Indian security forces were responsible for abducting and killing the doctor.
An official of the U.S. State Department in Washington said it would be 'next to impossible to determine who was responsible for the doctor's death because it was a 'classic disappearance.'
'He was grabbed and then dumped later on the street dead,' the official said. 'In such cases it will be difficult to determine responsibility.'
Guroo was a strong supporter of the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front and had been an outspoken critic of the activities of the Indian security forces in Kashmir, keeping track of claims of torture and human rights abuses by the authorities through his hospital contacts.
The doctor had previously acted as a channel of communication between the government and militants. In 1989, he played a leading role in securing the release of the daughter of former Indian Interior Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who had been kidnapped by militants.
The Press Trust said police blamed Guroo's killing on members of a rival Muslim militant group, but the agency said no specific group claimed responsibility for the attack.
The JKLF organization most closely associated with the doctor is one of about a two dozen separatist groups in the region. The pro- independence aims of the Liberation Front are opposed by most of the other groups, which favor a merger of Kashmir with neighboring Islamic Pakistan.
The Press Trust said Guroo's brother-in-law, Ashaq Hussain, was killed and several other people were wounded in Srinagar when police opened fire on a funeral procession carrying the doctor's body to a cemetery for burial.
Police sprayed bullets into the cround of mourners after they ignored orders to disperse and continued condemning Guroo's killing, the news agency said. A large number of paramilitary troops were deployed in sensitive areas of the state capital, and authorities were considering afull curfew on the city.
Kashmir, a picturesque Himalayan region, is a disputed territory with its control divided among India, Pakistan and China. India rules the largest section, the Kashmir Valley, which has been wracked by a Muslim separatist insurgency since 1990. More than 3,000 people have perished in the rebellion.
Meanwhile, in separate incidents Thursday, 10 people including four militants were killed in Kashmir and 19 militants were arrested by police, officials told PTI.
The New Delhi-appointed administrator of Kashmir, Gov. K.V. Krishna Rao, expressed shock and grief over Guroo's death, the Press Trust said.
Kashmir has been under direct federal rule since January 1990, and Rao took over as the new administrator last month charged with installing a democratically elected government within the next few months.