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Wednesday, 25 July, 2001, 16:40 GMT 17:40 UK
Leading Kashmir militant killed
Hizbul commander
Hizbul Mujahideen announced a truce last year
A leading member of the Hizbul Mujahideen militant group has been killed by Indian security forces in Kashmir.


Commander Masood was... killed brutally in custody,

Hizbul Mujahideen commander-in-chief Abdul Majid Dar
The authorities say Abdul Hamid Tantray, known as Commander Masood, was killed in a clash with a special police task force in Pulwama district, south of the capital, Srinagar.

A security official described the killing as a "big success for security forces".

The BBC's Altaf Hussein in Srinagar says Abdul Hamid Tantray played a leading role in trying to start peace talks with the Indian Government a year ago after Hizbul Mujahideen declared a unilateral ceasefire.

'Fake encounter'

However, the circumstances of the killing were disputed by the group's commander-in-chief, Abdul Majid Dar.

Indian soldier
The group says he was shot after being arrested
In a statement, he said Mr Tantray had been arrested on the outskirts of Srinagar two days ago and killed in custody in what he called a "fake encounter."

"Hizbul Mujahideen strongly condemns the killing of Commander Masood," the statement said.

Mr Tantray, who held a degree in Urdu, was regarded as the group's chief spokesman in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Female separatist arrested

In another development, police in Indian-administered Kashmir arrested the leader of the separatist women's groups known as Dukhtaran-e Milat

Dukhtaran-e-Millat members
Dukhtaran-e-Milat campaigns for independence
Asiya Andrabi was detained in Srinagar along with her one-year old child and three members of her group.

Police have given no reason for the arrest.

However, she was on her way to Doda district in Jammu for what was believed to be a meeting with women and children who have lost relatives in the conflict.

Ms Andrabi was sent to jail in 1993 for a year.

The Dukhtaran-e-Milat is an unarmed organisation which regularly organises meetings and rallies to propagate its aim of an independent Kashmir.

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See also:

20 Jul 01 | South Asia
Musharraf: Kashmir must be solved
17 Jul 01 | South Asia
Militants to step up Kashmir attacks
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