Gulam Muhammad Gania, a contractor by profession, was gunned down at Tachabagh, a locality of Pampore, where he was overseeing construction work, reported Aljazeera correspondent Yusuf Jamil.

Popularly known as Gula Bab, Ganai was provided security after it was discovered he had been put on a hit list. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the killing.

Kashmiri authorities, however, blame Muslim fighters who are struggling against what they claim is India's occupation of Kashmir for the death.

Celebrations marred

Ganai’s killing has marred celebrations in the PDP marking the first anniversary its coming to power. Chief Minister Muhammad Sayyid, has expressed grief over Ganai’s killing and said “marauders involved in the cold-blooded murder will achieve nothing by indulging in such gruesome acts”.

In the 14-year insurgency, nearly 40,000 people have died in fighting, about 3000 of them since 2 November 2002, when Mufti Sayyid took over as head of a coalition government in Kashmir.

Local human rights groups and Muslim separatists put the toll twice as high.

Meanwhile, Indian occupation troops claimed to have shot and killed five insurgents in three separate overnight encounters in the southern Kashmir districts of Udhampur and Doda, and Kupwara in northwest, a police spokesman said.

He said three of the insurgents were killed in a fierce gunbattle in the village of Deda Basri in Udhampur district.