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Suspected Islamic Militants Kill 11 in Indian Kashmir - 2003-03-16

In Indian Kashmir, an attack by suspected Islamic militants has killed 11 people, including nine policemen. There has been a surge of violence in the region in recent days.

Police say suspected guerrillas mounted the overnight attack on a security post in the remote Udhampur district, about 150-kilometers north of the Kashmir's winter capital, Jammu.

Officials say the guerrillas attacked the post with rocket launchers, then barged inside spraying bullets with automatic weapons. About 25 policemen were manning the post at the time. There are two civilians among the victims.

Jammu police spokesman Subhash Raina said the attackers escaped following a one-hour gun battle. He says several policemen are missing. "We are also looking for some persons who are missing, we do not know how many are there yet," he said.

A man claiming to belong to the Jamiat-ul-Mujahedeen phoned a news agency to say his group carried out the attack along with another rebel group, the Harkat-I-Jehadi Islami.

It was the worst attack in recent days in Indian Kashmir, where nearly a dozen Muslim rebel groups have waged an armed struggle since 1989 for either independence from India for Kashmir or merger with Pakistan.

Friday, police blamed Muslim rebels for an attack in Poonch town in which seven people, including three police officers, were killed. A day earlier, four people died when a bomb exploded in a passenger bus in the border town of Rajouri.

Police are linking the renewed violence to the melting of snows in the Himalayan region as summer approaches. They say Muslim infiltrators are able to cross into Indian Kashmir from Pakistan as the mountain passes become accessible.

New Delhi says the rebellion in Indian Kashmir is fueled by infiltrators from Pakistan. The Pakistani government strongly denies the charge, and says all infiltration from its territory has stopped.

Elsewhere in India, Bombay and the capital New Delhi continue to be on heightened alert, after a bomb on a passenger train killed 12-people Thursday in Bombay. There has been no claim of responsibility for that attack, but investigations are focusing on hard-line Islamic groups.