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9 Islamic Militants Killed in Kashmir Clashes - 2002-08-20

In Indian Kashmir, authorities say nine Islamic militants have been killed in clashes with army troops.

An Indian defense spokesman says the Muslim militants were shot dead late Monday in separate gun battles in the border district of Kupwara, north of the summer capital Srinagar.

He said soldiers intercepted the guerrillas when they were trying to enter Indian territory along the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Army officials say it is the second time in the past three days that troops have prevented Muslim guerrillas from trying to cross into Indian Kashmir. They say it is evidence that cross-border insurgency backed by Pakistan is continuing.

In other clashes in the troubled region, an army officer and a policeman were killed.

In an interview to be telecast on state television at 1630 UTC Tuesday, Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes has said there has been a drop in infiltration of Muslim rebels from Pakistani territory in recent months.

But Mr. Fernandes has accused Islamabad of stepping up efforts to push in militants ahead of state elections in September in Indian Kashmir. He also said the government has reports militants intend to step up violence to disrupt the polls.

In an interview Monday with the AFP news agency, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said he has lived up to his pledge of halting infiltration of Muslim militants. But he said it may be possible that individuals or small groups may still be crossing into Indian-controlled territory.

Since December last year, both countries have been locked in a tense military standoff that has its roots in India's accusations that Pakistan continues to allow Muslim militants to infiltrate Indian territory. Pakistan denies the charge.