February 2004 News

Kashmir Chief Escapes Explosions

27 February 2004

Srinagar: Indian-administered Kashmir's Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed escaped unhurt after grenades went off at a meeting near Srinagar on Friday. A girl, 17, was killed and four people hurt when two grenades exploded in Birwa, 30km (19 miles) south-west of Srinagar, officials say. The blasts were a few hundred metres from where Mr Sayeed was due to speak. Pakistan and India recently announced a 'roadmap' for peace talks in the disputed region. Senior Kashmir minister Hakim Yasin was addressing the gathering at a school ground at the time of the attack. Mr Sayeed, the top elected official in India's state of Jammu and Kashmir, rose to address the crowd minutes after the explosions. Those hurt in the blasts included a soldier and two civilians. 'The two explosions in succession created panic among the people but security guards immediately closed the gates of the schools and no one was allowed to leave or enter,' said local journalist Nazir Ahmed told the AFP news agency. Peace process The explosions came hours after police fired tear-gas against more than 1,000 Kashmiri Muslims protesting against alleged police atrocities. Since partition, India and Pakistan have both claimed Kashmir The protesters were angry at the killing of a 13-year-old boy during police firing in the town of Bandipora, 65km north of Srinagar, on Thursday. Earlier this month, Indian and Pakistani officials began a series of talks aimed at resolving all outstanding issues between the two countries, including Kashmir. That followed the agreement of a ceasefire between the two countries in November along the Line of Control that separates Indian- and Pakistani-administered Kashmir. However, the ceasefire does not apply to the conflict between Kashmir' separatists and the Indian security forces. Kashmir has been claimed by both India and Pakistan since partition in 1947 and over the past decade more than 35,000 people have died in violence. Moderate Kashmiri separatists met India's deputy prime minister last month as part of the peace process. However, this week they threatened to pull out of peace talks over alleged human rights violations in the state. A number of hardline Islamic militant groups have vowed to continue their armed struggle until Indian troops have left the region.


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