Kashmir grand mosque reopens for Friday prayer for first time in months

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Friday prayers were held in Kashmir’s historic main mosque for the first time since New Delhi revoked the restive region’s semi-autonomous status in August and imposed a security lockdown.

Some thousand worshippers gathered for afternoon prayers at the iconic mosque after security was removed from its main gates, images showed.

Locals say the recent closure was the longest the 13th-century mosque had endured since Kashmir was split between India and Pakistan in 1947 after independence from Britain.

Jamia Masjid is in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, where Friday prayers are often followed by street protests.

Before the crackdown, chief cleric and influential separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq delivered sermons and political messages at the sprawling mosque every Friday.

He is among thousands of people, including separatist leaders opposed to Indian rule, taken into custody by authorities after New Delhi’s decision.

The Indian government shut down internet and phone lines, and flooded the Muslim-majority region with security forces to back its August 5 move.

Some of the restrictions have been eased in recent days but the area remains tense.

An armed rebellion against Indian rule has raged for decades in Kashmir, which has left tens of thousands dead, mainly civilians.

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