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Fall/Winter 2000
The Increasing Threats of Separatist Movements
Sri Lanka

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The Increasing Threats of Separatist Movements:
Spain, Kashmir, Sri Lanka


Following the granting of independence to India and Pakistan in 1947, war broke out over the future of the Muslim-dominated Kashmir region. India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir. In 1972, following another conflict, a Line of Control was established giving India control over 45 percent of the region, Pakistan control over 33 percent, and China rules the rest. Since 1989, Islamic militants allegedly supported by Pakistan have been waging a violent separatist rebellion to bring Indian-ruled Kashmir under Pakistani sovereignty. More than 30,000 people have died in the violence.

There are several Islamic guerrilla groups fighting in Kashmir for an end to Indian rule. Their targets include the Indian government, Indian troops in Kashmir and civilians in Kashmir and in other parts of India. India claims that these Muslim separatist groups have training bases in Pakistan and receive material from the Pakistani government while Pakistan claims it provides only moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri separatists.

The leading pro-Pakistan Kashmiri separatist group is Hizbul Mujahideen (HM), one of the older militant groups, comprised mostly of Kashmiris. It has been active since the early days of the Muslim separatist rebellion.

Hopes for an end to the conflict rose briefly in the summer of 2000 when Hizbul Mujahideen agreed to a cease-fire and negotiations with the Indian government. The two-week truce ended when talks broke down after HM demanded that Pakistan be part of the talks. Even during the cease-fire however, Islamic militants opposed to the truce carried out seven attacks in a 24-hour period in early August 2000 that killed at least 85 people in Kashmir.

Another Islamic separatist group fighting to end Indian control of Kashmir is the Harakat ul-Mujahidin (HUM), a Pakistan-based Islamic militant group which is believed to be comprised mainly of Afghans, Pakistanis and Arabs. HUM has been designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. Its primary target has been Indian troops in Kashmir although it has also engaged in bombings of civilians.

According to the State Department, HUM's leader, Fazlur Rehman Khalil, has been linked to Osama bin Laden and signed his February 1998 fatwa calling for attacks on U.S. and Western interests. HUM is believed to be linked to the Kashmiri militant group al-Faran that kidnapped and later killed five Western tourists in Kashmir in 1995. HUM is also believed responsible for the December 1999 hijacking of an Indian airliner in which the hijackers demanded the release of HUM leader Masood Azhar. One passenger was killed during the hijacking.

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