INDIA TO RESUME TALKS ON ENDING ARMY SIEGE OF KASHMIR SHRINE
SRINAGAR, INDIA — * Negotiations to end a nine-day Indian Army siege of Kashmir's holiest Muslim shrine, Hazratbal, which sparked violent protests in which 43 people died, were to resume yesterday, a senior Indian official said.
Wahajat Habibullah, one of India's two negotiators, said yesterday morning he was going to Hazratbal to talk to the militants holed up inside.
Mr. Habibullah's attempt at fresh talks is the first since Thursday, when India launched a major security operation to head off a planned mass protest against the siege. The operation succeeded Friday in preventing a mass march, but there was considerable violence. The worst was in the town of Bijbehara, about 20 miles south of Srinagar, where official sources said at least 37 people were killed.
The government has announced an inquiry into the killings, which residents said came without warning.
Habibullah's negotiations at Hazratbal were interrupted by Friday's violence.
India has offered safe passage to the militants inside Hazratbal if they lay down their arms, and to some 150 pilgrims trapped with them by the surprise Army siege, which began at midnight Oct. 15.
The government has insisted from the beginning it has no intention of storming the mosque, but seeks a peaceful end to the siege.
India relaxed a blanket round-the-clock curfew in many places on Saturday, but the Kashmir valley remained tense.