Kashmiris burn US flag, vow support for Afghanistan
21 September 2001
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Police fired tear gas shells on hundreds of demonstrators in Kashmir on Friday after they burned the American flag in protest against possible US strikes on Afghanistan. Demonstrators gathered outside the biggest mosque in Srinagar, vowing to defend Afghanistan, where Osama bin Laden—the prime suspect of last week''s hijacked airliner attacks on the New York and Washington—is believed to be hiding. ''Afghan warriors, we are with you! Long live Afghanistan! Long live Pakistan!'' they chanted as they burned and trampled upon the American flag immediately after Friday prayers in Srinagar. The Himalayan state was gripped on Friday by a general strike which was called by militant groups to express solidarity with the Afghan people. Shops, schools and government offices were shut across a state where more than 30,000 people—separatists say 80,000—have died in insurgency-related violence since 1989. One militant group said bin Laden was a holy warrior and vowed to repulse any retaliatory attacks on his home base. ''An attack on Afghanistan will be considered an attack on the whole Muslim world,'' Al-Umar Chief Commander Mushtaq Ahmad Zargar said in a statement sent to newspaper offices in Srinagar. Zargar was one of the men India freed from its prisons in exchange for the release of passengers on an Indian Airlines plane hijacked to Afghanistan by Muslim militants in December 1999.