NEW DELHI – A Kashmiri separatist was executed Saturday over his role in a deadly attack on Parliament in New Delhi in 2001, an episode that brought nuclear-armed India and Pakistan to the brink of war.
Afzal Guru, a former fruit seller, was hanged at Tihar Jail on the outskirts of the capital after his final appeal for mercy was rejected by President Pranab Mukherjee.
He is only the second person to be executed in India in nearly a decade.
With authorities fearing a backlash over the execution, a curfew was imposed in parts of Indian-administered Kashmir, and the center of its main city was sealed off.
While India’s main opposition party welcomed the execution, one of those accused with Guru but later cleared said it was a travesty of justice.
A senior police officer at the jail said that Guru was woken up three hours before his execution after being held in solitary confinement.
Guru was found guilty of conspiring with and sheltering the Kashmir militants who attacked India’s Parliament in December 2001.
He was also held guilty of being a member of the banned Islamist group Jaish-e-Mohammed, which fights against Indian rule in the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir, where a separatist conflict has claimed up to 100,000 lives.
Five armed rebels stormed Parliament in New Delhi on Dec. 13, 2001, killing eight police officers and a gardener before they were shot dead by security forces. A journalist wounded in the attack died months later.
As the decision to hang Guru emerged, security forces imposed a curfew in rural areas parts of Indian-administered Kashmir, with the announcement made by bullhorn as police patrolled the Kashmir Valley.
A former chief minister of Kashmir once warned that executing him would lead the country to “go up in flames” because of the backlash that would be generated by rebels in Indian Kashmir.
India alleged the militants behind the attack were supported by Pakistani intelligence, leading the nuclear-armed rivals to deploy an estimated 1 million troops to their borders for eight months.