Couple warned not to board Kashmir bus

Associated Press

Jammu, April 1:

Two days after warning prospective passengers against travelling on a cross-border

bus route that will soon reconnect the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled parts of Kashmir, suspected Islamic rebels have threatened an elderly couple scheduled to make the historic journey. Khalid Hussain, a retired government employee, said he received a call late last night, telling him not to board the bus. The caller told Hussain that “disastrous consequences may follow in case of defiance.” Hussain said the late-night call to his mobile phone

was made from the United Kingdom. Hussain informed the police today, who agreed to protect him and his family. Hussain and his wife planned to ride the April 7 bus from Srinagar to Muzaffarabad, to visit relatives there. A shaken but determined Hussain, however, said the threat would not deter him from travelling on the bus. “I will go,” he said. “They (rebels) are seeking to keep us divided.” Hussain said he may have drawn the rebels’ attention because he condemned their earlier threat in the local media. On Wednesday four rebel groups warned people against riding the cross-border buses, saying that it was “against the interests of the freedom struggle and was an Indian ploy to harm Kashmir’s freedom movement”.

Security, already tight across much of Kashmir, has been sharply ratcheted up along the bus route. Wednesday’s threat against travelling on the buses was sent by fax to The Associated Press office in Srinagar.

The statement, written in Urdu, also carried a list of 40 prospective passengers who are being vetted by authorities to ride the first bus. It directed newspaper editors to “publish the list so that these people stand warned and are not among the traitors.”

More than a dozen rebel groups have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence or its merger with Pakistan since 1989. At least 66,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the 15-year conflict.