Eight Muslim children, four others killed in Kashmir in suspected militant attack

Monday, January 21st 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

JAMMU, India (AP) _ Attackers raided a remote village in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday, killing eight children and four other civilians.

State Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah blamed the attack on a police deserter who conspired with local Islamic militants to avenge a family dispute, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Abdullah said police have arrested three out of four suspects, but gave no other details, the agency reported.

Police had said they suspect a Pakistan-based Islamic militant group in the deadliest attack since Pakistan clamped down on extremists.

Two women and a man also were wounded when the attackers surrounded Salwa village in the Punch district, about 135 miles northwest of Jammu, the winter capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state, said state police chief Ashok Suri.

The attackers forced their way into the house of villager Zakir Hussain, a Muslim, and started firing indiscriminately, Suri said.

The eight dead children ranged in age from six months to 12 years. Officials said two men and two women were killed, including Hussain's wife, who was nine months' pregnant with twins.

State Home Minister Khalid Najib said authorities were investigating whether Hussain's brother, who had worked with police but later joined the militants, could be responsible for the killings.

In another incident, police said two militants were killed Monday in an encounter with the Indian army in Chamalvas, 110 miles north of Jammu. Both were identified as top activists of the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed. Five army personnel were injured, two critically, they said.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Mukhtiar Singh said a top commander of another militant group, Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen, Ghulam Mohammed Gani, was killed Sunday night in a gunbattle with an army patrol in Jammu-Kashmir. Three other militants were killed Monday in separate incidents, Singh said.

Pakistan's government started a crackdown a week ago on Islamic militants based in its territory, and banned several of the groups that are fighting in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir to win independence or merger with Pakistan, including Jaish-e-Mohammed.

None of the dozen militant groups operating in Jammu-Kashmir claimed responsibility for the Salwa attack. The militants say they never target civilians. However, most of the tens of thousands of people killed in the 12-year insurgency are Muslim civilians.

India says Pakistan's army and spy agency have helped to train and arm the militants.

Pakistan says it provides only moral and diplomatic support to the guerrillas, but Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has said he would oppose terrorism in the name of Kashmir.