Mon, May 22, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Kashmir militants open fire on crowd

AP , SRINAGAR, INDIA

The body of an Indian policeman lies on the road as a Kashmiri man ducks for cover following a militant attack in central Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-held Kashmir, yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

Suspected Islamic militants hurled grenades and fired bullets into the crowd at a ruling Congress Party rally in India's portion of Kashmir yesterday, killing a policeman and wounding at least 13 people before one of the attackers was killed, officials said.

One policeman died and three senior police officers were wounded in the attack, said police officer Abdul Ahad.

Police couldn't immediately say how many civilians were injured, but a doctor at a nearby hospital said he had received at least 10 wounded.

Mohammed Sayeed, a Congress Party worker, said he saw "more than a dozen people hit by bullets," as he fled the scene.

Thousands of people had assembled inside a park in Srinagar, the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir, to observe the anniversary of the death of former prime minister Rajeev Gandhi, said Inspector General of Police K. Rajendra Kumar.

Most of the crowd was still trapped inside the park, which police and paramilitary soldiers cordoned off. The militants intermittently fired at the security forces.

In related news, four Islamic militant groups threatened yesterday to sabotage talks between India's prime minister and Kashmiri separatist groups that favor a negotiated settlement to a decades-old dispute over control of the Himalayan region.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh plans to travel to Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu-Kashmir state, for the talks on Wednesday.

"All preparations to sabotage the round-table conference have been completed. Indian leaders cannot hold conferences here,'' the four Islamic rebel groups said in a statement faxed to local newspaper offices.

The groups also warned Kashmiri groups against attending the conference. The rebel groups which signed the statement are al-Nasireen (the Helpers), Save Kashmir Movement, al-Arifeen (the Pious) and Farzandan e-Millat (Sons of the Community).

Indian officials believe the lesser-known groups are front organizations for bigger militant outfits.

Last year, the groups issued a similar warning against a new crossborder bus service connecting the Indian and Pakistan controlled portions of Kashmir.

A week before the service began on April 7 last year, a bomb exploded along the bus route, injuring three people. On April 6, suspected militants stormed a building in Srinagar where passengers were staying.

Six people were injured in a gun battle, part of the building was destroyed by fire and two militants were killed, but the passengers escaped unharmed.

More than a dozen Islamic militant groups have being fighting in India's portion of Kashmir for the region's independence or its merger with mostly Muslim Pakistan.

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