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Owen Bennett-Jones
The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad
"The ceasefire announcement caught everybody by surprise"
 real 28k

Srinagar correspondent Altaf Hussain
"This is a very significant development"
 real 28k

Monday, 24 July, 2000, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
Kashmir militants offer ceasefire
Indian marine commandos on Wullur lake
Call for an end to Indian army action in Kashmir
A leading Kashmiri militant group has announced a unilateral ceasefire and said it is willing to enter into negotiations with the Indian authorities.

The operational chief of the Hizbul Mujahideen, Abdul Majid Dar, told journalists in Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir, that the ceasefire would last three months.

We want to show the world we are not hardliners and we are flexible in the search for a solution

Abdul Majid Dar
The Hizbul Mujahideen advocates Kashmir's accession to Pakistan.

The organisation's leadership in Pakistan-administered Kashmir has not yet reacted to the Srinagar announcement.

Peace move

The sudden announcement has taken everybody by surprise.

The BBC's Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad says it marks a major departure from the organisation's decade-long policy of promoting militancy in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Destroyed army camp
The Hizbul Mujahideen has targeted security forces
Abdul Majid Dar said the move was to facilitate dialogue that could end the decade-long violence in the strife-torn state.

"We want to show the world we are not hardliners and we are flexible in the search for a solution," he said.

"There should be no force against mujahideen [fighters] and no excesses carried out on the Kashmiri people," he added.

Our correspondent says if the ceasefire is genuine, it is likely to have a major impact on the level of militant activity.

US pressure

The Hizbul Mujahideen is closely associated with the hardline Jamaat-i-Islami party in Pakistan, which also favours Kashmir's accession to Pakistan.

The announcement follows recent moves made by the Indian Government, which suggested it was trying to facilitate talks with Kashmiri separatists.

Several prominent separatist leaders have been released from Indian jail and senior ministers have said they are open to dialogue.

Washington is also believed to have put pressure on the leadership of both India and Pakistan to move towards a resolution of the Kashmir situation.

During his recent visit to South Asia, President Bill Clinton called for an end to violence and urged India and Pakistan to discuss the issue.

The Hizbul Mujahideen is a formidable militant group that has led the separatist campaign against Delhi.

However, it is by no means the only militant group operating in the region and the BBC's correspondent in Srinagar says four other groups have rejected the ceasefire proposal.

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See also:

05 Jun 00 | South Asia
Five dead in latest Kashmir violence
19 Jan 00 | South Asia
On the defensive in Kashmir
15 Jul 99 | South Asia
Flashpoint Kashmir: Special Report
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