Jammu and Kashmir Education Minister Ghulam Nabi Lone was killed in a fidayeen (suicide) attack at his Tulsibagh area residence in Srinagar on Tuesday morning.
Police said two fidayeen militants made their way into the high security area wearing police uniforms.
The two stormed Dr Lone's house and opened fire indiscriminately, seriously injuring the minister who succumbed to his injuries in hospital.
In the ensuing gun battle, two securitymen and a militant were killed. A civilian was also injured in the shootout, succumbed to his injuries later, taking the toll to 5. Five others, including two security men, were injured in the attack.
The militant outfit al-Mansoorian has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Dr Lone's body was brought from the Institute of Medical Sciences in Soura to the police control room, where it was kept in state. Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and his ministerial colleagues laid a wreath on Lone's mortal remains as a contingent of the Jammu and Kashmir police lowered their guns and sounded the Last Post. The body has now been to Sopore for burial.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) state secretary Mohammad Yusuf Tarigami, who was also attacked by the militants, told rediff.com that one of the two suicide attackers had tried to enter his heavily guarded residence, firing indiscriminately from an automatic weapon.
However, paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force troopers guarding him retaliated and killed the militant soon after.
One of Tarigami's bodyguards was also killed on the spot.
A massive search operation has been launched to nab the second militant who is moving around in the heavily-guarded complex, police source said.
Sixty-two-year-old Lone, who represented the Sangrama assembly constituency, was a doctor by profession and joined active politics in the 2002 elections.
Tarigami, meanwhile, blamed the attack on tardy security measures that are in place.
"They managed to enter what is regarded as a high security zone with big guns without being frisked. This reflects severe laxity in security," he said.
Tarigami said a militant's body with a gun in his hand was still lying near his house and no senior officials had so far
reached the spot.
Union Minister of State for Home S P Jaiswal described the incident as "unfortunate."
Jaiswal said the Centre was taking the matter very seriously.
"They are desperate, isolated," he said about the attackers.
State Finance Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig said ministers would be asked to exercise restraint while mixing with people.
He said a meeting of the Unified Command could be called by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed to discuss the strategy and more forces could be deployed in the area.
Incidentally, Lone is the third state minister to be killed by militants.
In 2000, Ghulam Hassan Wani of the National Conference was killed in a landmine blast in Anantnag district.
Later, during the 2002 elections, Mushtaq Ahmad Lone, also of the National Conference and a former MoS for Home, was killed by militants while electioneering in his home constituency of Lolab in Kupwara district.
Former chief minister Farooq Abdullah said the latest attack was unfortunate, more so as it happened at a time when everyone was busy organising relief for the victims of the recent quake in the state.
Observing that there had been a serious lapse in security, he said the high-security area is "no more secure and the Unified Command must look into this."
"He (Lone) was the most innocent person and the incident has come as a shock to all of us and to those who stood for peace between India and Pakistan," the opposition National Conference leader said.
With PTI inputs