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Tight security, alert in Kashmir ahead of Obama visit

Security across the Kashmir Valley has been tightened and an alert sounded ahead of US President Barack Obama's four-day India trip. Curfew was also re-imposed in parts of Srinagar though separatists have not called for a shutdown on Diwali.

india Updated: Nov 05, 2010 12:44 IST

Security across the Kashmir Valley has been tightened and an alert sounded ahead of US President Barack Obama's four-day India trip. Curfew was also re-imposed in parts of Srinagar though separatists have not called for a shutdown on Diwali.

"Extraordinary security arrangements have been made across the state and a general alert has been sounded throughout to ensure that militants don't carry out any major strike," a senior intelligence officer here said.

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had said that he was more concerened about Obama's visit than his Maharashtra counterpart although the US president would not be coming to Kashmir.

Obama arrives in Mumbai Saturday and heads to New Delhi Sunday. Abdullah said that separatist guerrillas might try and attempt something that would focus the US president's attention on Kashmir.

The apprehensions of the state government about the guerrillas attempting a major strike in the state stem from the massacre staged way back in March 2000 when then US president Bill Clinton visited India. On March 28, 2000, unidentified gunmen killed 35 Sikh villagers in Chattisinghpora village of south Kashmir Anantnag district. The identity of the perpetrators of that massacre is still unknown, although the state government maintains it was carried out by separatist guerrillas.

"Minority pockets throughout the state have been put on extraordinary vigil and deployments around sensitive installations have been strengthened," the intelligence officer said. "We have taken all possible steps to defeat any designs by militants," he added.

Other senior officers responsible for counter-insurgency operations say they have increased their offensive against militants to keep them at bay.

"Attack is the best form of defence. We have increased our offensive against the militants and this is the most effective way of preventing them from planning something big," an officer on counter-insurgency duties in the Valley said.

Hardline separatist leader, Syed Ali Geelani, has asked people to observe a civil curfew during Obama's India visit and ensure that the shutdown called by his group is successful.

"This is very essential to tell the world, especially the US president, that permanent peace will continue to elude South Asia unless the people of Kashmir are given their inalienable right to freedom," Geelani said.

Authorities, meanwhile, imposed a curfew in eight police station areas in summer capital Srinagar to prevent post Friday prayer violence.

The separatists, however, have not called for any shutdown or protests Friday so that the non-Muslims living here are able to celebrate Diwali without any hardship.