Death in Kashmir amid calls for peace

A member of a pro-Indian government armed group was killed on Tuesday when assailants attacked their camp with gunfire and grenades in Indian-administered Kashmir, according to police.

    Indian troops clean-up after the
    latest shooting in Kashmir

    One Indian security spokesman said: "The militants strafed the camp with Kalashnikov rifle fire and grenades, killing Mushtaq Ahmed, a member of Ikhwan."

    Ikhwan is an armed group formed in early 1995. Its members are helping Indian security forces secure the line of control with Pakistan.

    The attack occurred early in the morning in the village of Devsar, near Kulgam township, 70 kilometers south of the summer capital Srinagar. 

    The police officer said Ikhwan members had returned fire and that the exchange between the two groups lasted for nearly an hour. 
      
    Call for peace

    Meanwhile, lawmakers in Indian-administered Kashmir urged Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to announce a unilateral truce on Tuesday, according to the Indian Kashmir’s main opposition party.
      
    Mubarak Gul, a legal consultant for Kashmir's National Conference (NC), said: "We are cutting across party lines and urging the prime minister to declare a unilateral ceasefire.”
      
    "There should be a fresh ceasefire as it will provide an opportunity for youths with guns to come to the mainstream," he said in the state assembly.
      
    The NC, which was swept from power by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in September’s state elections, is part of Vajpayee's BJP-led coalition in central government. 
      
    Room for optimism

    Tensions have eased in recent
    months, but can soon flare up

    There have been persistent demands for a ceasefire by politicians in Indian-administered Kashmir since 18 April, when Vajpayee extended a "hand of friendship" to arch-rival Pakistan during a visit to the troubled region.
      
    Indian Kashmir’s Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed last month also urged armed groups to announce a ceasefire, which, he said, would be reciprocated by the government.

    India and Pakistan are now moving towards their first dialogue in two years, with the reappointment of ambassadors and the restoration of transport links. 
      
    No instant change

    However, Sayed Salah ul-Din, who leads the Pakistan-based Kashmiri United Jihad Council (UJC) has said there are no immediate plans to call for a ceasefire in Kashmir, as has Indian Defence Minister George Fernandes.

    Since Sunday, four separatist fighters, three civilians and a policeman have died in the disputed province.

    Kashmir has been in the throes of a 14-year struggle that has so far left more than 38,000 people dead, according to the Indian government. Separatists and Pakistan put the figure between 80,000 and 100,000.


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