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July 8, 1999
Militants ban entry of US tourists, diplomats in Kashmir
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
Harkatul Mujahideen, a frontline militant outfit, today "banned" the entry of American tourists and diplomats in the Kashmir valley.
A strongly worded statement sent to local newspapers in Srinagar has warned the tourists of "serious consequences" in case they visit the valley.
This step follows the refusal by the terrorists and infiltrators to withdraw from the Kargil sector near the Line of Control.
"We are fighting for Islam and not for any country," the statement in Urdu said. "We are not concerned with any country."
Regarding the continuing fighting at Kargil, the statement said, "We have not been evicted from any area. We are fighting."
The organisation also opposed the recent joint statement of American President Bill Clinton and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief and said, "We have neither come at the invitation of Nawaz Sharief nor will we withdraw on the statement of Bill Clinton."
The authorities in Kashmir have increased security at tourist spots in Srinagar and elsewhere following the threat. There are scores of foreign tourists visiting various places in the state.
Five foreign tourists -- two Britons, an American, a German and a Norwegian -- were abducted from the upper reaches of Pahalgam in July 1995. A shadowy terrorist group called Al-Faran -- which had never been heard of until then and hasn't been heard of since -- had claimed responsibility for the act. The state government, however, had pinned the blame on Harkatul Ansar, an earlier avatar of the Harkatul Mujahideen.
The kidnappers had killed the Norwegian tourist Hans Christian Ostro. The whereabouts of the others four remain unknown. The authorities believe they too were killed.
Other groups have also announced that they will not withdraw from Kargil. Meanwhile, terrorists have intensified their attacks in the Kashmir valley. Sources in Srinagar said groups of terrorists, including foreign mercenaries, have managed to enter the valley in the last three months.
The bomb explosion at Pahalgam yesterday, just days before the annual Amarnath yatra is to begin, has worried the authorities who have ordered beefing up of security for the pilgrims. The yatra is scheduled to begin on July 21.
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