Accessibility links

Violence in Indian Kashmir Kills 22 - 2003-04-22

In Indian Kashmir, 22 people, including civilians and Islamic militants, have been killed in several incidents. Violence is continuing a week after the Indian prime minister visited the disputed region.

Police in Indian Kasmir said a group of villagers had gathered to sell milk and graze their cattle when a bomb exploded close by. At least five people were killed and several were injured in the incident about 60 kilometers south of Srinagar. Officials said the bomb may have been planted to target Indian security forces.

Hours later, nine paramilitary soldiers were wounded when their vehicle drove over a landmine in Lower Munda village, south of Srinagar.

In other incidents, officials say Indian soldiers killed at least 17 suspected Muslim militants in two separate gun battles near the ceasefire line that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

Tens of thousands of Indian security forces have been deployed in Kashmir for nearly 15 years. They have been battling more than a dozen Muslim militant groups waging a separatist insurgency in the Indian part of Kashmir. The violence has claimed more than 38,000 lives.

The Indian government's most recent efforts to restore peace to the region came last week with a high-profile visit by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee to Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar.

Mr. Vajpayee offered a "new beginning," urging both Pakistan and Kashmiri groups to join talks with India.

A government negotiator is currently in the region to hold talks with political groups in Kashmir. But prominent separatist leaders say they will not join the dialogue, because the official does not have the mandate to discuss the future of Kashmir. Pakistan, which has fought several wars with India over Kashmir, says it is willing to hold talks "anytime."

Separatist militant groups are fighting for either Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with Pakistan.