Mr Khan, leader of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), had been invited to the European Parliament by British Labour MEPs. He was held in one of the main streets of the Belgian capital while travelling in a parliamentary car. 'It was terrifying. Plainclothed police were all over the place with guns,' said George Stevenson, MEP for Staffordshire East.
The arrest of the JKLF leader, who could face the death penalty if he is returned to India, is likely to worsen tensions in Kashmir, where the Indian army is laying siege to a mosque taken over by 40 armed militants. Over 150 hostages are inside the Hazrat Bal mosque, which the militants are threatening to blow up along with a venerated Muslim relic, a hair of the Prophet Mohamed's beard. The Indian authorities are refusing to allow the militants to walk free. Yesterday security forces fired tear gas, then baton-charged a crowd of 500 protesters calling for the four-day siege to be lifted.
Pakistan, where Mr Khan has been based since his expulsion from Britain in 1986, expressed concern yesterday about his arrest. The Belgian public prosecutor's office said it could be several months before the question of his extradition is resolved. The JKLF, which is accused by the Indians of several political murders, had a leading role when the uprising against New Delhi began in 1990, but its demand for Kashmiri independence has deprived it of Pakistani support.