Washington, DC (May 11, 2017) — Hindu American Foundation (HAF) leaders condemned the abduction and brutal murder of 22-year old Indian Army Lieutenant Ummer Fayaz, a Kashmiri Muslim.

Lieutenant Fayaz, on leave attending a family wedding in the Shopian district of the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir, was reportedly kidnapped from a relative’s home and shot dead at close range by six militants from Pakistan sponsored terrorist organizations Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen. His body was then dumped on the main public road in Shopian. Lieutenant Fayaz’s funeral procession in his hometown of Kulgam in southern Kashmir was also attacked by stone-pelting extremists.

Both Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen have been designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations by the United States and have been responsible for several terror attacks in India.

“The brutal and tragic murder of Lieutenant Fayaz signifies a new escalation in the Pakistani military’s decades long use of proxy war and terrorism in Kashmir,” said Rajiv Pandit, M.D., a native Kashmiri born in Srinagar, and HAF Board Member. “It further serves as a stark reminder that Muslims have also been repeatedly victimized by radical Islamist militants in Kashmir and that the conflict at its core represents an existential struggle between extremism and secularism.”

The death of Lieutenant Fayaz comes a week after the killing and mutilation of the bodies of two Indian soldiers in Kashmir by Pakistani military forces escalated tensions between the two countries.

Starting in 1989, a Pakistani sponsored proxy war engulfed the Kashmir Valley, leading to the deaths of nearly 15,000 civilians in militant related violence, including Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs. More than 300,000 Kashmiri Pandits (over 95% of the Valley’s indigenous Hindu population) were ethnically cleansed from the Valley in a campaign of targeted massacres, rapes, public threats, and destruction of properties and religious sites.

HAF has created a short primer on the history of the Kashmir conflict and documented the plight of the Kashmiri Pandits in its upcoming annual human rights report, set to be released later this month.