Sun, Nov 07, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Rebel militants attack Kashmir paramilitary camp

AFP , SRINAGAR, INDIA

Seven people were killed in Indian Kashmir yesterday, including two in a rebel attack on a paramilitary camp, as fresh violence erupted ahead of the arrival of India's home minister, officials said.

Militants attacked a paramilitary camp in the northern town of Sopore, 50km north of the summer capital Srinagar, hurling grenades and firing at random, a Border Security Force (BSF) official said.

Border guards returned fire, killing one of the militants. Five border security guards were also wounded, of whom one died later, the official said.

BSF personnel, backed by police, scoured the camp and surrounding areas for the other militants but found none, the official said.

Indian troops meanwhile shot dead five militants in the Mendhar sector of southern Poonch district after they sneaked into Indian Kashmir from the Pakistani zone of the divided state, a defense spokesman said.

"The encounter along the Line of Control is still going on," he said, referring to the de facto border dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

The incidents occurred just hours before Home Minister Shivraj Patil arrived in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, for a scheduled three-day tour to assess the situation in the troubled region.

The minister, making his first visit to the insurgency-hit state since a Congress-led government swept to power in April to May national elections, was flown from Srinagar airport to the governor's house in a helicopter.

"He has held meetings with the Governor S.K. Sinha and the Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed," a state government official said.

"The two briefed the home minister about the prevailing situation in Kashmir, including law and order," he said.

Patil was accompanied by Indian Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, himself a Kashmiri.

The home minister would meet separately with members of the public, state political opposition leaders and top army commanders in the evening, the official said.

Patil has shown willingness to talk to Kashmiri separatists but the head of the moderate faction of region's main separatist alliance, Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, has ruled out talks until separatists are allowed to visit Pakistan.

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