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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

3 dead in fresh Kashmir attacks ahead of India's Republic Day

SRINAGAR, India (AFP) - India has tightened security in
Kashmir ahead of its Republic Day celebrations this week, officials said, as three policemen were killed and six hurt in fresh attacks.

"We have put security forces on alert to thwart any (more) attacks before Republic Day," a paramilitary officer said on Tuesday.

Militants routinely increase their attacks on Indian troops ahead of Republic Day on January 26, and police could be seen Tuesday conducting impromptu searches in the summer capital, Srinagar.

Still, three federal policeman were killed on Tuesday and five hurt in a roadside bombing by suspected militants in the village of Sangam, about 35 kilometers (21 miles) south of Srinagar, police said.

A police vehicle and three residential houses were also damaged in the attack.

Earlier, a border guard was hurt in a grenade attack by militants in northern Bandipora town, police said.

Security forces detected and defused a roadside bomb in the same town on Tuesday morning, police added.

On Monday, security forces said they recovered 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of explosives during raids on three rebel hide-outs on the outskirts of Srinagar.

Both the hardline and moderate factions of the region's main separatist alliance, the Hurriyat Conference, have called for a "total strike" on January 26.

"We don't have any complaint against the people of India, but when their troops are committing atrocities against Kashmiris how do they expect us to participate in their celebrations?" said a statement by the hardline wing of Hurriyat.

"By observing a shutdown on India's Republic Day, we have to show to the world that the ongoing freedom struggle will continue until we achieve our right to self-determination," said another statement by the moderate wing of the alliance.

The region's main Islamic rebel group, Hizbul Mujahedin, also urged people to "reaffirm their commitment towards the ongoing freedom movement by observing January 26 as a black day".

Kashmiris have spurned Republic Day since the eruption of an insurgency against Indian rule in 1989.

The day marks the date in 1950 when the country's new republican constitution came into effect. India had gained independence from Britain in 1947, but went through a transition phase when it was still classed as a dominion.
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