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Islamic Militants Kill 12 in Kashmir Violence - 2002-08-24


Indian officials say suspected Islamic militants have killed 12 civilians in Indian-administered Kashmir. The latest violence coincided with a visit by a senior U.S. diplomat to India and Pakistan aimed at easing tensions between the rival countries.

Police say suspected Islamic rebels burst into three homes in a predominantly Muslim village in the border Rajouri district in Indian Kashmir, and shot and killed several villagers. The victims included three women, and two children.

Authorities say four other people were killed since Friday in separate raids by Muslim militants in two other villages.

Police officials described the attacks as an attempt to spread terror in the run-up to state elections that begin in mid-September.

The latest violence took place as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was meeting with officials in Pakistan, after he concluded talks with Indian officials in New Delhi. His visit is aimed at reducing tensions in the region, but it has been overshadowed by reports of violence.

Indian officials expressed concern to Mr. Armitage that Islamic militants plan to disrupt upcoming state elections in Indian Kashmir. The American diplomat also expressed worries about a possible rise in violence in the run-up to the polls.

After returning to New Delhi from a visit to Britain, Indian Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani said he had told British leaders, Pakistan should not try to disrupt the upcoming polls.

Islamic militant groups have called for a boycott of the polls, and political Kashmiri separatist leaders have refused to participate in the planned elections, which Islamabad has described as a farce.

Mr. Advani said India plans to hold free and fair elections in which voters can participate in large numbers, without fear of violence. He said Pakistan should not create any hindrance in this.

Pakistan denies any responsibility for violence in the region, and says the Muslim separatist insurgency is an indigenous freedom struggle.

India's national security adviser, Brajesh Mishra, said Indian officials told Mr. Armitage that Pakistan has not fulfilled pledges to halt infiltration of Muslim militants into the region. Pakistan says it is doing all it can to stop militants from crossing into Indian territory, but a few may slip through the border.

President Musharraf in his broadcasts, in his press conferences, has made certain promises, not only to India, but to the international community in general and those promises have not been kept.

The attack by suspected militants in Indian Kashmir was reported a day after Pakistan accused India of mounting a military attack on a Pakistani army post. India strongly denied the allegation. Indian defense officials say the disputed border has only witnessed routine exchanges of artillery and gunfire between soldiers on both sides.

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