Surge in violence in Indian-held Kashmir; eight killed, 44 wounded
Saturday, July 3rd 2004, 10:02 am
By: News On 6
SRINAGAR, India (AP) _ A mountain gunbattle, a time bomb hidden in a fruit seller's hand cart and a grenade lobbed in a busy market killed eight people and wounded 44 in the Indian portion of Kashmir on Saturday in what police suspect was retaliation by militants for a recent crackdown.
In the first attack, a timed explosive set off a blast on the main thoroughfare in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu-Kashmir state, killing two civilians and wounding 21 others, police said.
The explosion occurred on Maulana Azad Road, a wide, tree-lined avenue taken by hundreds of tourists each day to the picturesque Dal Lake boulevard, senior police officer Javed Ahmad told The Associated Press.
Hours later, suspected militants hurled a grenade at paramilitary soldiers, wounding three troopers and 20 civilians in a crowded market in Anantnag town, 35 miles north of Srinagar, a police spokesman said on condition of anonymity. Ten of the wounded were in critical condition, police said.
Separately, Indian army soldiers and militants fought a gunbattle in the remote mountainous village of Rishipora, 45 miles north of Srinagar, killing three soldiers and three rebels, an army officer said on condition of anonymity.
Saturday's attacks came five days after the first comprehensive talks in years between India and Pakistan on settling their decades-old dispute over Kashmir. The two days of meetings ended Monday with both sides saying they were committed to finding a solution to the problem.
A senior police official said the attacks were believed to be reprisals for a June 29 crackdown launched by security forces against Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, the region's most feared militant group. Twenty people who police said were planning to blow up the country's main stock exchange in Bombay were arrested, including two who were killed when they allegedly tried to escape.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan. A territorial dispute over the Himalayan province and a 15-year-old insurgency by Pakistan-based Muslim militant groups is the main source of tension between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, which have fought three wars since becoming independent in 1947.
More than a dozen militant groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with Pakistan. More than 65,000 people have been killed in the conflict.