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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 2 April, 2003, 08:41 GMT 09:41 UK
Kashmir militants arrested in Pakistan
By Zulfiqar Ali
BBC correspondent in Muzaffarabad

Kashmir militants
Militants were arrested over fears of a possible clash between rival factions
Police in Pakistan-administered Kashmir have arrested more than a dozen Kashmiri militants over fears of a possible clash between two rival groups.

Police said the arrests were made on Tuesday in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

The arrested men belonged to two rival factions of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, a militant group fighting to end Indian rule in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Police said they were tipped off about a possible clash between the two rival groups and arrested 14 people, 7 from each side, as a preventive measure.

The detained militants will be kept in custody till Friday.

Split

Tuesday's police action against the militants is unusual and suggests that the split in the group is significant.

Hizbul chief Syed Salahuddin (right)
Salahuddin (right) opposed the ceasefire
A break in ranks became apparent last week when around 200 supporters of the group's former commander, Abdul Majid Dar, staged a protest demonstration in Muzaffarabad against the killing of their leader.

Mr Dar was killed over a week ago by unknown assailants in his hometown of Sopore, in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The protesters publicly accused Syed Salahuddin, the head of another faction of the group, over the killing.

A spokesman for Mr Salahuddin, Salim Hashmi, condemned the killing, but did not blame anyone for the attack.

He said the group would conduct its own probe into Mr Dar's killing.

Ceasefire controversy

Tufail Altaf, one of Mr Dar's leading supporters and former district commander of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, told journalists last week in Muzaffarabad that a new faction of the group had been launched.

He also said Amed Yaseen had been appointed as chief of the group and claimed they have the support of 40% of the militants in the group.

Syed Salahuddin had expelled Mr Altaf late last year for supporting Mr Dar.

In July 2000, Abdul Majid Dar announced a three-month unilateral ceasefire against the Indian security forces, a pronouncement that created a controversy among the militants.

At first, Mr Salahuddin endorsed the ceasefire, but then withdrew it, accusing India of not accepting a demand to include Pakistan in negotiations on Kashmir.

Eighteen months after the announcement, Mr Salahuddin removed Mr Dar from his position.


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