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Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Friday, 29 August 2008 16:15 UK

Another Kashmir separatist held

Shabir Shah
Shabir Shah had been in hiding

Another separatist leader, Shabir Shah, has been arrested in Indian-administered Kashmir as part of efforts to stop anti-India protests.

A six-day old curfew has been strictly enforced in Muslim-majority areas, preventing traditional large gatherings at mosques for Friday prayers.

The protests began in June in a dispute over the transfer of land to a trust in charge of an important Hindu shrine.

They escalated into some of Kashmir's biggest separatist protests in years.

Shabir Shah had been in hiding for more than a week, the BBC's Altaf Hussain reports from Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar.

He was arrested in an area close to the city. He has spent some 20 years in prison for his separatist activities.

Earlier this week the police arrested four other prominent separatist leaders, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, Yasin Malik and Asiya Andrabi.

Ms Andrabi has been charged under the Public Safety Act which allows for detention without trial for up to two years.

Our correspondent says Ms Andrabi played a crucial role in forging unity among separatist groups in Kashmir.

'Stay indoors'

Last Friday saw hundreds of thousands of Kashmiri Muslims attend a huge rally in Srinagar against Indian rule.

Soldiers enforcing the curfew in Srinagar on Friday
Soldiers enforcing the curfew in Srinagar on Friday

There was no repetition this week as security forces maintained a curfew introduced on Sunday.

"A strict curfew is in force. Please stay indoors and don't come out for congregational prayers," police announced in the streets of Srinagar, the AFP news agency reports.

At least seven people were shot dead for violating the curfew in its first four days.

Indian-administered Kashmir has been hit by protests since June, after the government there granted land to a Hindu group that manages pilgrimage to a sacred Hindu shrine.

The move unleashed anger among Kashmir Muslims and has seen a re-emergence of mass demonstrations calling for independence from India.

The land transfer was subsequently abandoned, and that resulted in Hindus concentrated in the Jammu region of the state taking to the streets.

Some 40 people have been killed in the protests, most of the Muslim.

The Indian security forces have been heavily criticised for their handling of the protests and local people say many innocent people have been shot dead.

The United Nations this week called for a thorough and independent investigation into the killings.

The Indian government dismissed the UN's comments as "unwarranted" and "irresponsible".

Both India and Pakistan claim sovereignty over Kashmir and have fought two wars over it.


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