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The BBC's Zaffar Abbas
"The announcement has saved the military group from a possible split"
 real 56k

The Asian Age editor MJ Akbar
"Some efforts are being made by all the parties concerned"
 real 28k

Jamaat-i-Islami chief Qazi Hussain Ahmad
"Nobody should be under any illusion that India will respond positively"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 26 July, 2000, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Kashmir truce condemned
United Jihad Council
The council pledged to continue its armed struggle against India
A Pakistan-based alliance of Kashmiri militant groups has suspended a key member for a ceasefire offer to India.

The United Jihad Council has condemned the surprise ceasefire offer by the Hizbul Mujahideen - one of the oldest and most powerful groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir.


We cannot support a ceasefire that will strengthen India and push Kashmiris closer towards slavery

United Jihad Council
The offer was welcomed by the Indian Government which said it was a sign that Kashmiri militants were rethinking their position.

But the 14-member United Jihad Council accused the Hizbul Mujahideen of selling out to India.

"We will continue our jihad [holy war]. We cannot support a ceasefire that will strengthen India and push Kashmiris closer towards slavery," the council said in a statement.

It has asked the group to reverse its decision.

It has also removed Hizbul commander Syed Salahuddin from his position as chairman of the body.

Welcomed

India reacted cautiously to the Hizbul announcement, saying it could mark a turning point in the decade-long separatist struggle.

"We welcome the recent developments where people have not only laid down their arms, but a large number have thought that they would like to have a dialogue and they would like to find ways of living in peace in Kashmir," Defence Minister George Fernandes said on Wednesday.

Hizbul Mujahideen commander Syed Salahuddin
Syed Salahuddin: India must respond
The main separatist alliance in Indian administered Kashmir, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, has reacted cautiously to the announcement.

In a statement issued after a meeting of the alliance's leadership, it said the Hizbul Mujahideen had made a hasty decision, which could cause confusion among the Kashmiri people.

It said that it remained committed to a comprehensive political settlement to the Kashmir dispute.

India has released several Hurriyat leaders from prison in what was seen as a move to encourage peace talks.

Sudden offer

On Monday, Hizbul Mujahideen's field commander in Indian-administered Kashmir announced a unilateral ceasefire for three months.

The move was confirmed a day later by the group's commander in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Syed Salahuddin.

Mr Salahuddin said it was tactical move to facilitate a dialogue with the Indian Government.

But he warned that it was contingent on a matching response from India.

India, he said, would have to stop its crackdown on the militants and end human rights violations on Kashmiri civilians.

Our correspondent says many supporters of the armed struggle against India believe the ceasefire decision may considerably weaken the militant movement in Indian-administered Kashmir.

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See also:

24 Jul 00 | South Asia
Kashmir militants offer ceasefire
05 Jun 00 | South Asia
Five dead in latest Kashmir violence
09 Jun 99 | South Asia
Who are the Kashmir militants?
15 Jul 99 | South Asia
Flashpoint Kashmir: Special Report
25 Jul 00 | South Asia
Disarray over ceasefire offer
26 Jul 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Kashmiri militants' dilemma
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