Central & South Asia
Four fighters surrender in Indian Kashmir
Four members of the armed group Hizbul Mujahideen, including a divisional commander, surrender to Indian forces.
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2011 05:30
More than half a million troops remain in Indian-administered Kashmir [GALLO/GETTY]

Four fighters of the outlawed Hizbul Mujahideen armed group, including a divisional commander, have surrendered to security forces in Kulgam, in the northern Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The surrender of the fighters came after joint operations conducted by state police, the army and the Central Reserve Police Force in Kulgam and Reasi districts on either side of the Pir Panjal mountain range.

"Indeed it is big achievement of the army and Jammu and Kashmir Police." Mubashir Lateefi, superintendent of police in Kulgam, said on Thursday.

"This was the last group of the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit in Pir Panjal regiment of the state.

"This group was headed by divisional commander, Mohammed Rafiq Sheikh alias Basharat, and he was active since past 14 years in Reasi and Kulgam area."

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Two AK-47 rifles, seven magazines, one grenade launcher, five grenades, 118 AK rounds, one wireless set, one mobile phone, one battery and three pouches were surrendered by the fighters.

The surrenders came as the Reuters news agency reported that a top police officer had revealed that fighters from Pakistan might have infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir state over the past week.

The fighters could have entered in the Rajouri-Poonch sector of the state, Dilbagh Singh, Inspector General of Police of Jammu Zone, said.

"Officially speaking, infiltration is zero even till date, even after serious attempt made by them before 15 August [India's Independence Day]," he said. 

"But some infiltration, in that last attempt made in Rajouri-Poonch [region] sector, can't be ruled out. We are still verifying it on the ground," Singh told reporters in Jammu, winter capital of the state.

It is alleged that Pakistan-based armed groups have stepped up efforts to infiltrate into the region across the Line of Control (LoC), a military line that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan, before winter snow blocks the Himalayan mountain passes.

"But fact is people [infiltrators] are sitting across [the border]. They are waiting to cross over." said Singh.

"There is a lot of pressure on that count. There are many inputs from all the agencies, so we can't rule out any more bids of infiltration."

Indian authorities claim that between 500 and 700 fighters belonging to armed groups remain in Indian- administered Kashmir, which would be the lowest number in 21 years.

Guru 'apprehensions'

Meanwhile, Omar Abdullah, chief of Jammu and Kashmir state, said on Thursday that the decision to hang Afzal Guru, who was found guilty of attacking the Indian parliament in 2001, could potentially have adverse repercussions for the state.

Abdullah said he had conveyed those concerns to the Indian government.

"It is for the president to decide in her infinite wisdom as to what to do with this Afzal Guru case," he said.

"As a chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, having seen the situation in the state over the last three years, I do have certain apprehensions about what could happen if Afzal Guru were hanged.

"I have made those apprehensions known to the government of India from time to time."

On the August 10, the home ministry of India rejected a mercy petition for Guru and sent a letter to the Indian president recommending the death penalty.

Guru, a Kashmiri, was convicted for plotting the attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, which claimed nine lives.

He was sentenced to death in 2002, which was later confirmed by the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court.

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in India's only Muslim-majority state since separatists took arms against Indian rule in 1989.

State figures suggest that up to 50,000 have been killed in the region, though civil society say that the figure is close to 70,000 deaths.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, both of which claim the region in full and rule in part.

They have fought two of their three wars over the Himalayan region.

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