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Quake deals blow to Kashmir rebels
SRINAGAR, India (AFP) Oct 12, 2005
Intelligence officials and former guerrillas Wednesday said the giant earthquake that killed tens of thousands across divided Kashmir has dealt a blow to rebels in the Himalayan region.

Indian intelligence officials, citing intercepted radio traffic between various guerrilla groups, said rebels in the Pakistani zone of the state were badly hit.

"There are reports of damage to militant camps on the other side of the Line of Control (LoC)," K. Srinivasan, a top intelligence officer from India's Border Security Force told AFP in Srinagar, capital of Indian Kashmir.

About 70 earthquake-related rebel deaths were confirmed by Jamaat-ud-Dawa, formerly the outlawed jihadi group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The LoC, a heavily-militarised ceasefire line, divides Kashmir between rivals India and Pakistan. Thousands of Indian soldiers guard its snow-blown ridges to prevent Islamist guerrillas from sneaking across.

The Muslim rebels, who launched an armed struggle against Indian rule disputed Kashmir in 1989 that has claimed at least 44,000 lives, are normally active in the summer months when alpine passes are clear of snow.

Srinivasan, who has led counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir, said the damage to rebel camps will make it difficult to sustain operations against Indian troops before the winter snows come.

On Monday, the militants called a unilateral ceasefire on military operations in the quake zone in the north of the state.

The Indian army has not yet commented on the announcement of the ceasefire but has remained wary.

Convoys of trucks have been racing supplies as Indian troops try to rebuild their bunkers, where dozens of their comrades were buried by the quake.

The army has also continued military operations along with relief efforts, with 16 militants killed since Saturday while attempting to cross the LoC.

A former rebel, Abid Ahmed, said the ceasefire declaration by the rebels was a "clear indication the militants are facing problems."

Ahmed was arrested in the mid-1990s for attacking Indian troops and released two years later.

Reuez Ahmed, another former rebel, said the impact of the quake would be temporary.

"The surviving mujahedeen, I believe, will continue their fight although there may not be major attacks," Ahmed said.

Other militant sources told AFP that communication with their colleagues had stopped following the quake.

"There is no traffic now," said one, who declined to be named.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told reporters Tuesday that the scale of the disaster has left no time to think of the impact on militants.

"I have no detailed information about the militants who are there or who have been affected," Singh said, after offering 150 million dollars in aid to rebuild Indian Kashmir.

"Nobody should be allowed to make political capital out of this human tragedy," he said.

Singh's government insists that as many as 3,000 guerrillas were camped in Pakistani Kashmir before the quake, despite a pledge by Islamabad that its soil would not be used for terrorism.

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