Kashmir militants declare three-day Eid ceasefire

SRINAGAR, India Mon Oct 8, 2007 6:10pm BST

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SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - A Pakistan-based militant alliance fighting Indian rule in Kashmir announced on Monday a three-day unilateral ceasefire ahead of the holy Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, a local news agency said.

The statement of the United Jihad Council (UJC) comes after a recent surge in separatist violence in the Himalayan region. More than 26 separatist guerrillas and seven soldiers were killed in fierce firefights in the first eight days of this month.

"UJC has decided to stop attacks against Indian troops from October 12 to October 14," said a statement from the organisation faxed to a local news agency in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital.

"The decision has been taken so that Muslims can celebrate the coming Eid festival peacefully."

In New Delhi, a top official in the prime minister's office said the government has not taken any "opinion" on whether Indian troops would match the ceasefire by halting their counter-insurgency operations.

"Why should we take a considered opinion just because the United Jihad Council has announced a ceasefire?" the official told Reuters.

Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy month of fasting, Ramadan, will be celebrated in Muslim-majority Kashmir on Saturday or Sunday depending on the sighting of the moon.

India and Pakistan who both claim Kashmir but rule it in parts, have maintained a ceasefire along their heavily-militarised border in Kashmir since late 2003 but in the state, Indian troops and militants are engaged in conflict.

A ceasefire by both the troops and the militants in 2000 did not succeed for long and was called off by both sides.

Officials say more than 42,000 people have been killed in Kashmir since a revolt against India's rule erupted in 1989. But human rights groups put the toll at about 60,000 dead or missing.

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