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5 Hindus Killed in Kashmir - 2002-06-16

Indian officials say five Hindus have been killed in an attack by suspected Muslim militants in Indian administered Kashmir. The latest violence was reported as a senior Indian leader reiterated that New Delhi will not hold talks with Pakistan until Islamabad ends its support to Islamic militants in Indian Kashmir.

Police say suspected Muslim militants gunned down the villagers after entering their homes in Balmakote village in Udhampur district, about 66 kilometers east of Jammu. At least three people were injured as the gunmen fired indiscriminately.

In separate incidents, several militants were reported killed in gunbattles with security forces in Doda district and the capital Srinagar.

The latest violence came a day after Indian officials said Muslim separatists failed in an attempt to kill Kashmir's chief minister Farooq Abdullah.

India says Pakistan is responsible for sponsoring militant attacks in Kashmir, and says it should halt infiltration of Muslim militants across the line of control.

On Sunday, Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani said India is prepared to hold talks with Pakistan to resolve their dispute over the Kashmir region.

But he says, New Delhi will not resume a dialogue with Islamabad until it dismantles militant camps in Pakistani territory. Mr. Advani says there are about 70 camps which train and shelter militants in Pakistani Kashmir. "Cross border terrorism is something that has to stop," he said. "The terrorist infrastructure that Pakistan has built up inside its country and in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir has to be dismantled, and unless that is done, there is no point in any dialogue."

Pakistan says all incursions by Muslim militants into Indian territory have stopped and it is time for talks to begin.

Despite the violence in Kashmir, and the latest comments from India's hardline home minister, there are more signals that military tensions are easing between the two countries.

The Indian army is allowing some of its soldiers to take leave for the first time since they were posted on the border with Pakistan in December. India has already recalled warships that were deployed near Pakistan's coast, and lifted a ban on its airspace to Pakistani civilian flights.

Western diplomats say the steps taken are very small, and tensions still remain high. They have urged both countries to continue to take more measures to reduce the risk of war.