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Kashmir Insurgents Ban Use of Land Mines

  • Shahnawaz Khan

The International Committee to Ban Land Mines has been urging nations around the world to ban land mines. While India has resisted the ban because of security issues on its borders, an alliance of insurgents fighting Indian rule in Kashmir says it will give up using anti-personnel mines. The groups will, however, continue to use explosives against military targets. Shahnawaz Khan reports from Srinagar.

The United Jihad Council, an alliance of 13 insurgent groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir, this month banned the use of anti-personnel mines in the region. The declaration came after meetings with delegates from the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines in Pakistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

The insurgent group called the use of anti-personnel mines equivalent to blind terror and said their use is prohibited under Islam.

The group, however, will continue to use remote-c ontrolled explosives that can be manually detonated against military targets.

Khurram Pervez is a human rights activist and was part of the anti-land mine mission that negotiated with the insurgents on the land mine ban.

"It is significant for us that militants have responsibly responded to our request of banning the land mines because if militants who are considered by the government of India as disgruntled elements can behave responsibly, the government of India also needs to behave responsibly in the interest of the people of Kashmir," he said.

The armies of both India and Pakistan have placed land mines along the de facto border dividing Kashmir between the two countries. Rights activists say land mines are also placed around many military compounds close to civilian areas in Kashmir.

After the insurgents banned mines, the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines urged India and Pakistan to consider a moratorium on new mine use, and to begin clearing mine fields.

An Indian army spokesman who wished not to be named called the insurgents' announcement insignificant. He said the insurgents use manually detonated bombs - or improvised explosive devises - that cause more casualties.

"IED's are mostly remote controlled devices. It is not a blind weapon like [a] land mine," siad Pervez. "The land mine cannot discriminate between friend and foe, between human and cattle, and between civilian and military also."

Since 1989, several insurgent groups have fought in Indian-controlled Kashmir for the right to self-determination. The region, which has a mostly Muslim population, is divided between Pakistan and India.

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