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Kashmir group denies fighters arrested in Pakistan

By Super

ISLAMABAD, Mar 29: Hizbul Mujahideen, denied today (Mar 29, 2006) that three of its members were arrested leaving a Pakistani tribal area known as a hideout for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

Police in Tank, a town in North West Frontier Province bordering the restive South Waziristan tribal agency, said the three, who were carrying explosives and ammunition when they were caught, had confessed to being members of Hizbul Mujahideen during an initial interrogation yesterday.

Today, a senior police officer in Tank maintained that the men were still believed to belong to Hizbul Mujahideen, even though they were picked up more than 320 km away from the militant group's usual theatre of operations.

He said the three were all Pakistani nationals from the southern city of Karachi, and had been staying with a comrade from Hizbul Mujahideen in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan.

''They stayed in Wana with a local man called Faizullah, who is also member of the same group,'' the police officer said.

Hizbul Mujahideen spokesman Saleem Hashmi said the allegation that the group's fighters were roaming around the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, a region rife with al Qaeda and Taliban fighters and sympathisers, was a deliberate attempt to blacken the name of Kashmiris fighting for their freedom.

''No Kashmiri, especially anyone belonging to Hizbul Mujahideen, has been arrested in the tribal areas,'' Hashmi said, stressing that his organisation was not linked with al Qaeda.

''Kashmiris are carrying out an indigenous struggle inside Kahsmir, and have nothing to do with al Qaeda and the like,'' he added.



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