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Archive for Monday, January 14, 2002

India remains tense despite Pakistani pledge of crackdown

January 14, 2002

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— President Pervez Musharraf's pledge to crack down on terrorism failed to persuade India to ease the tense military standoff, and Kashmiri militants vowed more attacks against Indian rule in the contested Himalayan territory.

India's government on Sunday welcomed Musharraf's promise to prevent Pakistan from being used as a base for terrorism and to ban five Islamic extremist groups. Two of the groups have been accused by India of the Dec. 13 attack on the Indian parliament in which 14 people were killed.

More than 1,000 people, most of them from the five groups, were rounded up during a weekend crackdown that began just before Musharraf's speech was broadcast Saturday, Interior Ministry official Tasneem Noorani said.

Police also raided the offices of at least two Kashmiri groups not covered by the ban, according to members of the organizations. At least 80 people from those organizations al-Badr Mujahedeen and Harkat-ul Mujahedeen were arrested.

"The government is targeting (militant) groups at the behest of America and India," said Mustaq Askari, an al-Badr spokesman. "But any crackdown or restrictions won't hurt our struggle. Our Kashmiri jihad will continue."

In New Delhi, Indian External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh welcomed the ban on the two extremist groups blamed for the parliament attack Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba. However, Singh told reporters India was "looking forward to full implementation of this measure" so that members of the groups do not continue their activities under other names.

"There would be a similar need to address other organizations targeting India, as also the parent organizations that spawned them," Singh said.

Meantime, India will maintain its forces along the Pakistani border, where a million heavily armed and nuclear capable troops from the two nations face one another in their largest buildup since the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war.

"The mobilization remains as it is," Indian Defense Ministry spokesman S.K. Bandopadhyay said in New Delhi. "We will keep the situation under observation. Whether it will ease or not is something to be seen over the next few days. Whatever (Musharraf) has said, he has to act on."

President Bush telephoned Musharraf and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Sunday to urge them to continue peace efforts.

India blames Pakistan for fueling the 12-year revolt against Indian rule in Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state. Kashmir was divided between Pakistan and India when they became independent of Britain in 1947.

Pakistan maintains it provides only moral support to separatists. "Kashmir runs in our blood," Musharraf said Saturday. "No Pakistani can break links with Kashmir."

The latest confrontation began Oct. 1 when a suicide bombing at the legislature building in Indian Kashmir killed 40 people. Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility and then denied involvement two days later.

Tensions escalated on Dec. 13, when five armed gunmen stormed the Indian Parliament complex and opened fire. The five were killed, after having shot dead nine Indians.

Musharraf's ban on extremist groups does not extend to all Kashmiri guerrilla organizations. More than a dozen are allied in an umbrella organization, the United Jihad Council.

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