India Hangs Azfal Guru Convicted Over 2001 Parliament Attack

India today hanged Mohammad Afzal Guru, convicted by an Indian court for his role in the December 2001 attack on parliament, after a mercy petition was rejected, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said.

Guru was executed at 8 a.m. local time at the Tihar Jail after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected the petition on Feb. 3, Shinde told reporters in New Delhi today.

Authorities have tightened security in Jammu & Kashmir state, the Himalayan province to which Guru belonged, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said in televised remarks. The hanging comes less than three months after Pakistani militant Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the only gunman caught alive in the 2008 terrorist attack on Mumbai, was executed.

“By hanging Mohammed Ajmal Kasab and Afzal Guru in succession the government wants to give a strong message that they are committed in handling terrorism issues,” said Sanjay Kumar, a New Delhi-based analyst at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. “There is a need to be cautious” now on internal security in Kashmir and other parts of the country.

Twelve people were killed in the Dec. 13, 2001, attack on the Indian parliament. Four of the five attackers were killed by security forces and one killed himself. India blamed Pakistan for backing the attack. Pakistan denied any role.

Waging War

Guru was the only person sentenced to death for the attack on parliament and the Supreme Court in 2006 upheld the sentence against the Kashmiri for committing terrorist acts and waging war against the state. Two other accused in the case were acquitted and the sentence of a third, Shaukat Hussain Guru, was reduced to 10 years in jail from a death sentence awarded by a lower court.

Afzal’s family, human rights groups and Kashmiri activists had protested the verdict, which they said was not based on a “transparent” investigation. The groups said Afzal wasn’t “properly represented” during the trial.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party had been demanding the execution of Guru without delay, saying any mercy to him would encourage separatist groups.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir, which has been claimed by both since independence from British rule in 1947. Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid last month said Pakistan’s failure to investigate the killing of Indian troops in Kashmir meant an end to “business as usual.” Some of the most serious cross-border skirmishes in a decade between the nuclear-armed neighbors have undermined a sustained bid to improve bilateral trade and ease travel restrictions.

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