Tear gas fired at Kashmir border to to disperse angry Kashmiris

Pakistani police have fired shots in the air and tear gas shells to disperse angry Kashmiris as a crossing on the region's de facto border was opened. Hundreds of people protested after the Line of Control (LoC) was opened to relief material but not to civilians. India and Pakistan struck a deal to open five points along the heavily militarised Line of Control to help victims of last month's earthquake. But on Saturday, India said just one crossing would be opened for now.

India is said to be worried that separatist militants could try to take advantage of the opening to reach territory it controls.

Officials say civilians may have to wait for 10 days for their papers to be verified, before being allowed to cross over.

Hundreds of Kashmiri villagers on the Pakistani side of the divide approached the Line of Control between Poonch and Rawalakot shouting "Let people cross" and "What we want is freedom". Police fired in the air and lobbed tear gas shells to break up the protest. A few people who tried to run across the LoC were quickly pulled back by police.

The BBC's Chris Morris on the de facto border near Rawalakot says the opening of the LoC at just one point is seen as historic but a huge disappointment for locals who want greater efforts to help survivors. "It is an injustice that we are not allowed to cross the LoC ourselves," Itifaq Khaliq, a 25-year-old student and one of the protesters, told AFP.

On Monday, Pakistani and Indian army officials shook hands as they threw open the LoC at the Rawalakot-Poonch crossing. Relief trucks than backed up to the line and Indian porters began handing over sacks to their Pakistani counterparts.

Officials from both sides described it as a significant event"It's definitely a historical moment," Braj Raj Sharma, a top civilian official in Indian-administered Kashmir told Associated Press. "They say that adversity unites people. This is what is happening today." Immigration, customs and foreign currency exchange facilities have been set up, along with public telephones and a mosque. A BBC correspondent says security forces on the Indian side kept civilians six kilometres away from the LoC.

The deal struck between India and Pakistan at the end of last month was intended to allow Kashmiris divided by years of conflict to help each other following the 8 October quake. Both governments blame a range of logistical problems, as well as each other, for the setbacks.

On Saturday, India said another two crossing points should be able to open later in the week. Soldiers are still clearing blocked roads and removing landmines. Correspondents say political sensitivities and long-standing distrust are slowing things down.

India is concerned that Muslim militants could try to infiltrate into territory it controls under the guise of meeting family members, reports BBC news. I.L.

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