Indian police on Wednesday fired tear gas at dozens of rock-throwing Kashmiris protesting the upcoming execution of a Kashmiri man convicted of plotting a 2001 terror attack on India's Parliament.
A New Delhi court on Tuesday set Oct. 20 as the execution date for Mohammed Afzal, who was convicted after confessing in television interviews that he had been involved in plotting the attack that left 14 people dead and pushed India and Pakistan to the brink of war.
As the protesters marched through the streets burning tires and piles of trash and chanting "Don't hang Afzal Guru," Kashmir separatist leaders warned that hanging Afzal could derail the fragile peace process between India and Pakistan aimed at settling a decades-old dispute over Kashmir.
India and Pakistan control separate portions of the Himalayan territory but both claim it entirely. Kashmir was the cause of two of the neighbors three wars since they won independence from Britain in 1947.
"This is very unfortunate. I expect the Indian president to seriously reconsider the death penalty for Afzal," said Yasin Malik, the head of the pro-independence Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front. India's ceremonial president can commute death sentences, reports AP.
Malik and 10 other members of his party were later detained by police after participating in the protest march that shut down shops and disrupted traffic in parts of Srinagar, the summer capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state.
Many Kashmiris favor independence from mainly Hindu India or a union with mostly Muslim Pakistan. Alongside the political parties there are about a dozen militant groups fighting to oust India from the Muslim majority territory.
The Dec. 13, 2001, attack in New Delhi threatened to launch India and Pakistan back into war. India blamed Pakistan-based militant groups and its spy agency for the assault on Parliament, but Islamabad denied any involvement and condemned the attack.
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