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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 12:44 GMT
Kashmir separatist chief arrested
Syed Ali Shah Geelani
Geelani - 'our peaceful struggle will continue'
Police in Indian-administered Kashmir have arrested hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani ahead of a planned protest.

Mr Geelani was to lead a rally over the alleged rape of a woman and 10-year-old daughter by an Indian army officer.

The arrest came a day after India said it would cut its troops in the region, which Pakistan and India both claim, because of "improved security".

Mr Geelani dismissed the reductions as "a big joke".

Major suspended

Mr Geelani, who leads a hardline faction of the separatist All Party Hurriyat Conference, was scheduled to head the protest in the northern town of Baramullah, 40km (25 miles) west of the state's summer capital, Srinagar.

Police surrounded his house on the outskirts of Srinagar on Friday morning and arrested him as he left.

Witnesses to the arrest said about a dozen supporters were also detained.

The army has denied the rape claims, made last weekend, although an army major has been suspended and investigations are continuing.

Mr Geelani said the announcement by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of a troop reduction in Indian-administered Kashmir would be inconsequential unless it withdrew the Disturbed Areas Act, which gives sweeping powers to the armed forces.

"It is a big joke. Troop reduction in Kashmir will not make any difference. Our peaceful struggle will continue until all troops are out of our soil," Mr Geelani said.

However, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, said the announcement was historic.

Mr Sayeed told journalists it reflected mutual confidence between India and Pakistan.

Mr Singh said the troops would be cut this winter, although he did not give any numbers.

Pakistan has welcomed the move as "a step in the right direction".

India's move comes weeks after Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf made a fresh set of proposals to solve the long-running dispute by peaceful means.

Among the options the Pakistani leader suggested were joint rule over the territory or its re-division.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, which has been divided since independence in 1947.


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