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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK
Security fears for Kashmir separatists
Hurriyat leaders Umar Farooq, Bhat and Mallik
Security has been stepped for some leaders
By Altaf Hussain in Srinagar

Eight leaders of the main political alliance of separatists in Indian-administered Kashmir are said to face death threats from militant groups fighting Indian rule.

Five of them have been provided with police security following the threats.

The state's junior home minister, Khaled Najeeb Suhrawardi, told the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly that these leaders of the All Party Hurriyat Conference face a threat to their lives.

Three of them - Chairman Abdul Gani Bhat, Moulvi Umar Farooq and Abdul Gani Lone - have been placed within the second highest security category.

The minister said a committee headed by the state's intelligence chief had assessed the level of threat to each of the Hurriyat leaders.

Hurriyat leaders recently opposed a strike call by militants to protest against possible US attacks on Afghanistan.

Criticism

But in response, members of the state assembly demanded to know why the government should provide security to those campaigning against Indian rule in Kashmir.

The state chief minister, Farooq Abdullah, told the legislators that the government was protecting them so that it could not be blamed if the Hurriyat leaders were targetted by militants.

He also hinted that some of these leaders had almost given up their agenda to secede from India.

Earlier, the chief minister said he had authorised the police chief to give out-of-turn promotions to police officers who had performed extraordinarily well in the fight against militants.

This drew criticism from a member of the state's ruling National Conference party, Mohammad Syed Akhoon, who alleged that police officers were killing innocent people to gain promotions.

See also:

27 Sep 01 | South Asia
Pakistan fears Kashmir fallout
21 Sep 01 | South Asia
Kashmiri protests against US action
20 Sep 01 | South Asia
Taleban 'recalling Kashmir militants'
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