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India, Pakistan Condemn Kashmir Attack - 2002-07-14


India has condemned an attack by suspected Islamic militants that killed 27 people in Indian Kashmir. Pakistan has also condemned the attack, saying it was aimed at increasing tensions in the region. India's deputy prime minister has visited the site of the latest violence in Indian Kashmir's winter capital.

After touring the shantytown on the outskirts of Jammu where gunmen disguised as Hindu holy men shot and killed Hindu laborers, Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani called it "terrorism in its most naked form".

The gunmen had lobbed grenades before opening fire on the residents, and escaping into the surrounding jungles. The victims were cremated in a mass ceremony in Jammu.

Mr. Advani was confronted by angry residents, who are blaming the government for not providing adequate security.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Kashmir's state police chief, A.K. Suri blamed the Lashkar-e-Taiba group, saying intelligence reports had indicated that the group was planning attacks in Jammu.

Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha told an Indian television channel that "Pakistan was the inspiration for such attacks". But Mr. Advani declined to answer queries on who was responsible for the attack, saying the government is in the process of making an assessment. He said the government will inform Parliament about the latest security situation and its response to the attack on Monday.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister George Fernandes said leaders of parties in India's ruling coalition, the National Democratic Alliance, have condemned the attack. "The [National Democratic Alliance] condemns unequivocally this latest act of inhuman barbarity committed in Jammu," he stated.

This is the biggest attack in Indian Kashmir since May, when suspected Islamic militants killed 34 people in an army camp, also near Jammu. That attack brought India and Pakistan close to war. Tensions only eased in recent weeks after Islamabad pledged to end infiltration of Muslim militants from its territory into Indian Kashmir.

Western countries are beginning a new round of diplomacy to defuse tensions between India and Pakistan, which have tens of thousands of troops massed along their borders.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw visits India and Pakistan later this week, and Secretary of State Colin Powell arrives later in the month. There are fears that the latest attack could reignite tensions between the two countries that have been locked in a military standoff since December, following an attack on the Indian parliament by suspected Islamic militants.

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