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Friday, 21 September, 2001, 15:47 GMT 16:47 UK
Kashmiri protests against US action
Muslim demonstrators throw stones at police
The strike shuts down most of Kashmir
Police in Indian-administered Kashmir fired teargas on hundreds of Muslims protesting against a possible attack on Afghanistan by the United States.


We hope that the Osama problem will be peacefully resolved

Hurriyat chairman Abdul Gani Bhat
Security forces also used batons to disperse the demonstrators, who took to the streets of the capital Srinagar to mark a general strike.

The demonstration turned violent after Friday prayers as militants torched US flags outside the city's main mosque.

Kashmiris have responded to the strike call, made by militants, despite opposition from the main alliance of separatist parties, the All Party Hurriyat Conference.

Shutdown

Shops, banks and other commercial establishments have shut down and traffic is off the roads.

Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh
Jaswant Singh: "Afghan militants heading back"
The strike has been called by half a dozen militant groups who have described the Taleban as defenders of Islam, and the US as a global terrorist opposed to Muslims.

They have also opposed Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's offer of support to the US against the Taleban and the main suspect of last week's attacks, Osama Bin Laden.

But the Hurriyat had asked Kashmiris to ignore the strike order and backed President Musharraf's move to support the US, describing his decision as "pragmatic and realistic".

"We hope that the Osama problem will be peacefully resolved," Hurriyat chairman Abdul Gani Bhat said.

A leading women's militant group, Dukhtaran-e-Milat, said the overwhelming response to the strike demonstrated that ordinary Kashmiris supported the militants rather than the Hurriyat.

Militants recalled?

On Thursday, India said the Taleban were calling on Afghan fighters in Kashmir to return to their homeland ahead of a possible US military strike.

India's Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh told a news conference the call had been issued by Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Mr Singh said he had received "several intelligence reports" about the recall of fighters, but declined to elaborate.

But a separatist group operating in Indian-administered Kashmir - the Al Badr Mujahideen - denied that Afghan militants had been ordered to return.

A spokesperson for the group told the BBC that Afghans were still fighting alongside other militants.

The Indian military says thousands of Afghan war veterans are among the separatist rebels fighting Indian rule in Kashmir.

See also:

20 Sep 01 | South Asia
US rejects Bin Laden ruling
20 Sep 01 | South Asia
Taleban 'recalling Kashmir militants'
20 Sep 01 | South Asia
Indian Muslims oppose US action
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