Afzal Guru hanging: India hangs man for 2001 attack on Parliament

Feb 09 2013, 20:50 IST
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SummaryA Kashmiri man convicted in a 2001 attack on India's Parliament that left 14 people dead was hanged Saturday after a final mercy plea was rejected, a senior Indian Home Ministry official said.

Afzal Guru hanging: India hanged a Kashmiri man on Saturday for an attack on the country's parliament in 2001, sparking clashes in Kashmir between protesters and police who wielded batons and fired teargas. Dozens of people were injured.

President Pranab Mukherjee rejected a mercy petition from Mohammad Afzal Guru and he was hanged at 8 a.m. (0230 GMT) in Tihar jail in the capital, New Delhi. Security forces anticipating unrest had imposed a curfew in parts of insurgency-torn Kashmir and ordered people off the streets.

Guru, from the Indian part of divided Kashmir, was convicted of helping organise arms for the gunmen who made the attack and a place for them to stay. He always maintained his innocence.

India blamed the attack on the parliament of the world's largest democracy on militants backed by Pakistan, targeting the prime minister, interior minister and legislators in one of the country's worst ever militant attacks.

Pakistan denied any involvement and condemned the attack but tension rose sharply and brought the nuclear-armed rivals dangerously close to their fourth war. Nearly a million soldiers were mobilised on both sides of the border and fears of war only dissipated months later, in June 2002.

The hanging was ordered less than three months after India executed the lone surviving gunman of a 2008 attack in the city of Mumbai in which 166 people were killed.

Saturday's execution could help the ruling Congress party deflect opposition criticism of being soft on militancy as it gears up for a series of state elections this year and a general election due by 2014, while grappling with an economic slowdown.

"Congress has decided to be more proactive in view of the elections, not only in terms of economic policy but also matters like the hanging," said political analyst Amulya Ganguli.

"The Congress has now deprived the BJP of a propaganda plank," he said, referring to the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

Government officials dismissed suggestions that electoral politics played a role in the decision to execute Guru.

In major towns of Indian Kashmir, where security forces have battled a Muslim separatist insurgency for decades, barricades were erected and hundreds of police and paramilitary force members were deployed.

"The hanging of Afzal Guru is a declaration of war by India," said Hilal Ahmad War, leader of a separatist faction.

Thirty-six people including 23 policemen were injured in protests, said police spokesman Manoj Sheeri, with most of the violence in Guru's home district.

Authorities shut down

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