Valley stays calm as Lashkar supports Kashmir unrest (Evening Lead)

Srinagar, July 30 (IANS) The restive Kashmir Valley stayed calm but tense on Saturday — the 22nd day of curfew and separatist-called shutdown — as the globally banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant outfit threw its weight behind secessionist leaders, asking people to follow their programme in “letter and spirit”.

Curfew continued in some parts of the Srinagar and south Kashmir but was relaxed in other areas of the valley – on the boil since the July 8 killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani. Slogan-shouting people took to streets at some places in Srinagar but no violent clashes were reported by police.

Curfew also continued in Pulwama and Kulgam districts of the worst hit south Kashmir.

Normal life remained paralyzed for the 22nd day in a row in the Kashmir Valley with the shutdown called by separatist leaders. People came out in the morning to buy essentials but remained restricted to their homes after police and paramilitary troopers were deployed to thwart protests.

In a statement to Srinagar-based newspapers, the LeT, based in Pakistan and blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attack, said that it “respects the aspirations of Kashmiri people for their independence from India”.

“Make the hartal (shutdown) calls successful and follow the programmes issued by joint resistance leadership religiously,” the statement said, referring to Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) head Yasin Malik.

The statement quoted LeT’s Kashmir chief commander as praising doctors who have “played a vital role in this hour of grief”.

Meanwhile, the army claimed to have foiled an infiltration bid on the Line of Control – the de facto border that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Two soldiers and two militants were killed in the Nowgam sector, a defence source told IANS.

“Army troops challenged a group of intruding terrorists earlier in the day (on Saturday). The heavily armed terrorists opened fire at the soldiers,” the source said.

–IANS

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