Wed, Jul 23, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Islamic militants kill at least 16

WRECKING TACTICS Analysts said the attack on an Indian army base and Hindu shrine in Kashmir was intended to deflate the feel-good mood in India and Pakistan

AFP , JAMMU

At least 16 people were killed when Islamic militants carried out separate attacks on an Indian army base and a Hindu shrine in Indian-administered Kashmir, police and the army said yesterday.

Analysts said they believed the fresh surge of violence was aimed at scuttling recent peace moves between India and Pakistan.

An army spokesman said seven soldiers died and six were wounded when two militants at dawn yesterday attacked Tanda military base, about 25km west of this winter capital.

Two attackers were also killed in the firefight, which lasted almost three hours, army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bhawar Singh Rathore said.

The rebels entered deep inside the camp throwing grenades and opening fire indiscriminately, police told the Press Trust of India news agency.

The camp was sealed off while army commandos engaged the militants in a gunbattle.

Tanda is a major military center and headquarters of 610 army battalion.

Tuesday's bloody raid came just hours after an attack on Monday night on crowds gathered to receive free food near the town of Katra on their way to the shrine of Vaishnodevi in southern Indian-administered Kashmir, visited by thousands of Hindus each year.

Jammu and Kashmir state minister for public health engineering Jugal Kishore said seven Hindu devotees died and 42 others were injured in the attack.

Kishore said militants hurled two grenades at the Hindus as they queued for food at a community kitchen.

The blasts occurred near a spot where a charitable organization was distributing food. Some 500 to 700 people had queued up for dinner packets at the time of the blast.

At least 42 people were injured in the attack.

The latest attacks follow a relative lull in violence in the disputed state, where some 38,000 people have died in an anti-Indian rebellion by Islamic militants since 1989. Separatists put the toll at around double that number.

The picturesque Himalayan region has been gripped by a mood of optimism since an April 18 offer by Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee of a "hand of friendship" to Pakistan in their dispute over Kashmir.

Tourists have since then flocked to the state in numbers not seen since the rebellion began, while India and Pakistan have edged towards reopening dialogue over the future of the divided state.

Full diplomatic ties have been restored between the archrivals while bus links snapped in the wake of an attack on the Indian parliament in December 2001 by gunmen New Delhi claims were sponsored by Islamabad resumed on July 11.

A baby girl, Noor Fatima, who arrived on the first bus from Pakistan and who has been successfully operated on for heart defects by doctors in India's southern city of Bangalore, has meanwhile become the new symbol of attempts at reconciliation between the two nations.

Analysts said the latest violence was an attempt to deflect the "feel-good" mood sweeping the two nations.

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