Nine die in Kashmir violence: Indian army, police

Srinagar, India (ANTARA News/AFP) - Nine people have been killed in fierce fighting in Indian Kashmir, the Indian army and police said Wednesday, amid fears the execution of a convicted militant could spark further unrest.

Five militants, two policemen and an army lieutenant were killed in a clash that started Monday and continued Wednesday, army spokesman J.S. Brar said, adding that the fighting took place in Kashmir`s Kupwara district, which borders Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

"The area is mountainous, densely forested, with no habitation and steep cliffs," Brar told AFP.

In a separate incident, suspected militants shot dead a policeman at point-blank range in Indian Kashmir`s summer capital of Srinagar, police said.

"The policeman was on guard duty when militants attacked him," a police spokesman said, adding that a hunt for the killers had been launched.

The violence came as the proceedings of a clemency plea for Afzal Guru, who was convicted of plotting the December 2001 raid on the Indian parliament, were halted.

Independent legislator Abdul Rashid had submitted a resolution to the Kashmir assembly speaker seeking clemency for the businessman, who is from northern Kashmir, warning of further unrest if he is executed.

But legislators from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party stalled proceedings, demanding that the plea be dropped.

The 2001 raid on parliament left 15 people dead, including the five attackers, and brought nuclear-armed India and Pakistan close to war. But Guru insists he was not involved in the plot.

Rashid said executing Guru could have "serious consequences" for the political situation in Kashmir, where large protests against his sentence have been held in the past.

Hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani has also warned New Delhi of major unrest if Guru is executed.

"Guru`s death will create hundreds of Afzal Gurus in Kashmir," he said last month.

More than 47,000 people have been killed since the outbreak of a Muslim separatist insurgency in Kashmir in 1989. (*)