India hangs man for 2001 attack on Parliament

Kashmiri Mohammed Afzal Guru was executed early Saturday in New Delhi's Tihar prison.

NEW DELHI — A Kashmiri man convicted of a 2001 attack on India's Parliament that left 14 people dead was hanged Saturday in an Indian prison after a final mercy plea was rejected, a senior Indian Home Ministry official said.

Home Secretary R.K. Singh said Mohammed Afzal Guru was executed early Saturday morning in New Delhi's Tihar prison.

"It was the law taking its course," Singh said.

Guru was given a Muslim burial in the prison compound, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. His family in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir has demanded that his body be handed over, but that seems unlikely given the highly sensitive nature of the execution.

Protests broke out Saturday in three parts of Indian Kashmir, including the northwestern town of Sopore, which was Guru's home. Scores of protesters defied a curfew and clashed with police and paramilitary troops who opened fire. Four protesters sustained bullet wounds and one of them was in critical condition, a senior police officer said on customary condition of anonymity.

Thousands of police and paramilitary troops fanned out across the state preparing for more protests and violence following the announcement of the execution. A curfew was also imposed in most parts of Jammu and Kashmir state, and cable television channels were cut off in the region.

Guru had been on death row since first being convicted in 2002. Subsequent appeals in higher courts were also rejected, and India's Supreme Court set an execution date for October 2006. But his execution was delayed after his wife filed a mercy petition with India's president. That petition, the last step in the judicial process, was turned down earlier this week.

Several rights groups, including political groups in Indian Kashmir, have said that Guru did not get a fair trial.

On Dec. 13, 2001, five gunmen entered the compound of India's Parliament and opened fire. A gunbattle with security officers ensued and 14 people, including the gunmen, were killed. India blamed the Pakistan-based militant groups Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

The attack led to heightened tensions between India and its neighbor and archrival Pakistan and brought the neighbors to the brink of war, but tensions eased after intense diplomatic pressure from the international community and a promise by then-Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf to clamp down on the militants.

Guru confessed in TV interviews that he helped plot the attack but later denied any involvement and said he was tortured into confessing.

Government prosecutors said that Guru was a member of Jaish-e-Mohammed, a charge Guru denied.

Guru's family said it had not been told that he was about to be executed.

"Indian government has yet again functioned like a fascist state and hanged him secretly," said Yasin Guru, a relative who lives in the family's compound in Sopore. "They did not have the courtesy to inform his family."

When Guru's death sentence was handed down by India's Supreme Court it sparked protests in Kashmir, and the state government has warned that his execution could destabilize the volatile Himalayan region.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Muslim-majority Kashmir, which is divided between Hindu-dominated India and Muslim-majority Pakistan but is claimed by both nations.

Since 1989, an armed uprising in Indian-controlled Kashmir and an ensuing crackdown have killed an estimated 68,000 people, mostly civilians.

The secrecy in which Guru's execution was carried out was similar to the execution in November of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. Kasab was also buried in the western Indian prison where he was hanged.

Police in Indian Kashmir on Saturday also detained several leaders of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an umbrella organization of separatist political and religious groups, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak to reporters.

Associated Press writer Aijaz Hussain in Srinagar contributed to this report.

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