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Indian Kashmir Rocked by Grenade Blasts


Several grenade blasts have rocked the capital of Indian Kashmir, killing six people and injuring nearly two dozen. The victims included many tourists. The Himalayan region is at the heart of a 17-year Muslim separatist insurgency.

The deadliest attack targeted a tourist bus at Dal Lake, the most popular tourist destination in Kashmir's summer capital of Srinagar. Witnesses said a grenade was tossed into the bus, killing and wounding tourists and bystanders, including women.

More attacks took place in quick succession in separate parts of the city, including near the tourist center. One grenade exploded in a busy market area, injuring civilians and prompting shopkeepers to close their shutters. Two more grenades were hurled at vehicles in the main commercial center of the city, known as Lal Chowk.

The series of blasts created panic in the city. But officials were most worried by the attack that hit the tourist bus.

It is the sixth time that suspected Muslim militants have targeted visitors since the start of the tourist season in April. Officials fear that the string of attacks may scare away visitors, damaging the region's economic future.

Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Muzaffar Baig described the violence as a concerted effort to "create a scene of terror", and destroy the state's tourism industry.

"This we have witnessed during the last one or two months; there is a pattern in creating a situation where people lose confidence in Kashmir, not only in the government, but Kashmir as a whole and so isolate Kashmir from the rest of the country," he said.

Tourists had stayed away from Kashmir since 1989, when the tense region between Pakistan and India became wracked with violence as Muslim separatist groups fought to end Indian rule. Islamabad and New Delhi each claim sovereignty over the entire region, which is divided between them.

A peace process between India and Pakistan during the past two years helped bring about a lull in the violence, prompting visitors to flock back to the scenic region.

Nearly one million tourists visited Kashmir last year, helping to revive the economy.

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