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Kashmir Violence Rolls On, Claiming 21 Lives

S. Asia: Gunmen storm a Hindu village and kill five people in one of day's incidents.

June 17, 2002|From Times Wire Services

SRINAGAR, India — Twenty-one people, including five Hindu villagers, were killed on Sunday in several incidents of separatist violence in Indian Kashmir, police said.

The violence comes despite U.S.-led international efforts to pull nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan back from the brink of a fourth war.

Police said suspected Muslim rebels shot dead five Hindu villagers in the Himalayan region's Udhampur district on Sunday. Security forces rushed to the village.

"Militants descended on a village and barged into the houses of the minority community and opened fire. Five people died and four were injured," a police official said in Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state.

Police said three civilians including two village defense committee members were killed by unidentified militants in the same area. No militant group has claimed responsibility.

Four members of the pro-Pakistani Hezb-ul-Moujahedeen militant group and a civilian were killed in a fierce gun battle in Budgam district, west of Srinagar, the summer capital of the state, police said. Two soldiers were also wounded in the fight.

In another incident, a police officer was killed and three policemen were injured when separatist guerrillas attacked a police patrol in Pulwama district, south of Srinagar.

Hezb-ul-Moujahedeen claimed responsibility for the attack.

"A group of Hezbul militants attacked SOG [Special Operations Group] in Pulwama and inflicted heavy casualty," Salim Hashmi, spokesman of Hezb-ul-Moujahedeen, said. SOG is the counterinsurgency arm of the Jammu and Kashmir Police.

Five militants, a civilian and a paramilitary soldier were killed in other shootouts across the region.

Nearly a dozen militant groups are battling Indian rule in the state. India accuses Pakistan of stoking the revolt in Kashmir by sending militants across a cease-fire line dividing the region.

Pakistan denies the charge, saying it provides only moral and diplomatic support.

Police said an attack Saturday in which suspected Islamic guerrillas lobbed grenades and fired at about 500 Hindu pilgrims trudging down from a mountaintop shrine, killed three Hindu children and three of their Muslim escorts. Initial reports had said two children were killed. Seven pilgrims were wounded in the attack in a remote area 100 miles northeast of Jammu.

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