Top Kashmiri separatist arrested
SRINIGAR, India -- A Kashmiri separatist leader has been arrested under an anti-terrorism law in connection with the seizure of large sums of cash India says was smuggled into the region from Nepal by two activists.
Yasin Malik, who heads the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, was holding a press conference in Srinagar, the summer capital of Kashmir, when police burst in and hauled him away, police officials said on Monday.
Police scuffled with around 60 Malik supporters, and lobbed a tear gas shell after the leader's arrest sparked street protests near his Srinagar residence.
"Long live JKLF. We want freedom," his supporters shouted. The JKLF is a former militant group that laid down its arms and became a political party.
Malik -- who is also an executive member of the All Party Hurriyat Conference, Kashmir's main separatist alliance -- has denied any link to the seized cash, totaling $100,000 dollars.
The leader has been quoted as saying that Indian authorities were attempting to use the seizure to undermine Kashmir's separatist leadership.
"They consider me an impediment in coming state legislature elections," Malik told The Associated Press, adding that his party had announced a boycott of the elections in September.
The Indian government is trying to persuade the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a conglomerate of more than two dozen political and religious groups in Kashmir, to participate in the elections.
Malik, among the first group of young militants to take up arms against Indian rule in 1989, was arrested under tough anti-terrorism laws that allow a suspect to be held by police for 30 days without being charged.
There are more than a dozen militant groups fighting for Kashmir's independence or its merger with Islamic Pakistan.
Police said Malik was detained after investigations following the cash seizure. Two people were arrested overnight Sunday in Kud, 125 miles south of Srinagar.
Police said the two suspects -- Mustaq Dar and Shazia Begum -- had told police during questioning that the money was meant for Malik.
More than 33,000 people have been killed since 1989 when Islamic guerrillas seeking either independence or union with Pakistan launched a revolt in the mountainous region.
India, which controls 45 percent of disputed Kashmir, accuses Pakistan of arming and training Islamic militants. Pakistan, which rules over a third, denies the charge and says it only offers moral support to Kashmiri separatists.
Hindu India and Pakistan have fought two wars over the mainly Muslim Himalayan province and have amassed troops along their common border.
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