November 22, 2002

Gunbattles Kill 10 People

Islamic guerrillas and Indian soldiers fought gunbattles in disputed Kashmir province on Wednesday, killing eight guerrillas and two civilians, Indian police said.

The killings come as India and Pakistan have engaged recently in their worst armed clashes in years, raising tensions between the nuclear rivals. The countries both claim all of divided Kashmir and have fought two wars over the Himalayan province.

Police said in a statement that at least three Islamic militants were killed in a shootout with security forces at Badgam, 16 miles west of Srinagar, summer capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state.

Two more militants were killed in a separate gunbattle with police in Pattan, 22 miles south of Srinagar, and two civilians were killed when militants opened fire on an army patrol along the India-Pakistan border in Kupwara district, police said.

The statement did not say how the other three guerrillas died.

Tensions between the nations rose sharply during last week's visit by US Secretary of State Colin Powell, when both countries traded artillery fire over the frontier in Jammu-Kashmir.

India said it was worried that the United States was aligning with Pakistan in its war on terrorism.

India sees Pakistan as one of the region's main terrorist havens, and alleges that the country is a base for militants fighting for independence in India's Muslim-majority Kashmir. A car bombing earlier this month blamed on Islamic militants killed 40 people in the state legislature in Srinagar in India.

Many Indians say that the American action in Afghanistan - seen as a haven for terrorists - justifies a similar Indian military action against Pakistan.

While India's leaders say the army will not cross the cease-fire line, there is growing fear that another major terrorist strike in Kashmir could break their restraint.

Meanwhile, Indian police said Wednesday they had arrested four men from Kashmir's biggest guerrilla group, alleging they were planning to launch attacks in the country's financial capital.

The four men, aged 19-28, were allegedly members of the Pakistan-based Hezb-ul Mujahedeen group, said Surendra Mohan Shangari, the police commissioner in Thane city.

( China Daily 10/25/2001)

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