India Says Rebel Chief Killed In Kashmir Gunbattle
19 August 2004
Srinagar: Indian soldiers killed the head of a guerrilla group fighting for Kashmir's merger with Pakistan in a gunbattle on Thursday, hours before President Abdul Kalam began a rare visit to the region, an official said. Manzoorul Islam, identified as the head of the Jamait- ul-Mujahideen, was in a car in Srinagar, the summer capital of the disputed region, when the gunbattle erupted after soldiers signalled the vehicle to stop. Another militant who was in the car escaped, a spokesman of the paramilitary Border Security Force said. 'The killing of the chief is a big success,' he said. But there was no immediate comment from Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, one of nearly a dozen militant groups fighting Indian rule in Muslim-majority Kashmir. In a separate development, Pakistan's foreign ministry dismissed Indian charges of a rise in militant incursions into Indian-ruled Kashmir from Pakistan-controlled territory, and said such assertions could damage a tentative peace process. 'Such charges are not in consonance with the positive spirit that underpins the ongoing composite dialogue process,' the ministry said in a statement in Islamabad. In Kashmir, a senior separatist leader dismissed Thursday's gunbattle as fake and said Islam had died in the custody of Indian forces a day earlier. 'The killing has exposed the real face of the government,' Mohammad Yasin Malik, chief of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, said in a statement. But he offered no evidence. Separatists and rights activists have frequently accused Indian troops, deployed in the tens of thousands in Kashmir, of excesses. The Indian army denies large-scale abuse of human rights and says it investigates and punishes guilty soldiers. Security in Kashmir was tightened for President Kalam's day-long trip to inaugurate a university in the state's winter capital, Jammu, and speak to engineering students in Srinagar. Kalam was scheduled to return to New Delhi by the evening. Rebel violence has been unabated in Kashmir despite bids by both India and Pakistan to address the dispute and other issues that have been irritants in relations for more than half a century. On Sunday, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh vowed to pursue reconciliation with Pakistan but said cross- border infiltration by militants could hurt the peace process. He also told Indian parliament that Pakistan had not yet taken any 'credible steps to dismantle the infrastructure of support to terrorism in that country'. Pakistan's foreign ministry said it regretted the 'baseless' Indian allegation. The exchanges between the two nuclear-armed rivals, who have gone to war three times and were on the brink of a fourth in 2002, come barely two weeks before talks between their foreign ministers to review progress in a fledgling peace process launched in April last year.