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Last Updated: Saturday, 12 July, 2003, 10:16 GMT 11:16 UK
Kashmir separatists elect new leader
Troops at the camp which came under attack
Indian troops in the territory are frequently attacked by militants
A prominent Shia Muslim has been elected as the new leader of Indian-administered Kashmir's main separatist alliance.

The executive council of the All Party Hurriyat Conference voted Mohammad Abbas Ansari in as chairman at a meeting in the city of Srinagar.

Mr Ansari is the fourth chairman of the alliance, which was formed in 1993, but the first Shia to head it.

Correspondents say Shias in Kashmir are more inclined than Sunni Muslims to favour independence for the territory, and less keen on union with Pakistan.

Tens of thousands of people have died in disputed Indian-administered Kashmir as a result of an insurgency by rebels whom India says are supported by Pakistan.

Mr Ansari replaces Abdul Ghani Bhat, who has completed his three-year term.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani
Geelani boycotted the election
The outgoing chairman of the All Party Hurriyat Conference told a news conference in Srinagar that Mr Ansari was elected unanimously by the alliance's executive council on Saturday.

Mr Bhat said the election of Mr Ansari symbolised not only the political but also the sectarian unity of the Kashmiri people.

However, a senior member of the alliance, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, stayed away from the election.

Mr Geelani has said he will boycott meetings until the People's Conference grouping is expelled from the alliance.

Mr Geelani says the People's Conference violated an alliance directive by participating in state elections last year.

But the new chairman has dismissed the charge. Mr Ansari told journalists that the People's Conference did not take part in the polls.

He also said that Mr Geelani no longer enjoyed the support of his own Jamaat-e-Islami party.




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The BBC's Sanjeev Srivastava
"The exchange of fire continued for more than four hours"



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