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Intensified Fighting Kills More Than a Dozen in Indian Kashmir - 2003-09-02


In Indian Kashmir, more than 12 people have been killed and several others wounded in a wave of intensified attacks blamed on Islamic guerrillas.

A key highway, a military base, and an army convoy were among the targets of violence in Kashmir.

Several civilians and soldiers were among the casualties when a landmine exploded as an army convoy passed along a national highway about 35 kilometers south of Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar.

Indian officials also say a suspected Islamic militant was shot dead as he tried to storm a paramilitary base in Srinagar just before dawn.

In addition, a bomb ripped damaged a bridge on a key highway linking Kashmir's two main cities, Srinagar and Jammu, disrupting traffic for several hours.

A day earlier, two policemen were killed while trying to defuse a bomb in a tunnel on the same highway.

Several people were killed in overnight violence. Officials say suspected militants gunned down a local politician, Khadim Hussain, along with four members of his family in a remote mountain village. The victims included a woman and a 14-year-old boy.

At least five suspected militants were killed in a gun battle with security forces late Monday.

As the violence mounts, Jammu and Kashmir's chief minister, Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, renewed a call to militants to shun violence and enter a dialogue with the government.

Indian officials link the fresh violence in Kashmir to the killing of a top Islamic rebel commander by security forces on Saturday. The officials say the Pakistan-based guerrilla group Jaish-e-Mohammad threatened to intensify attacks to avenge the death of its commander, Gazi Baba, during a raid on his hideout in Srinagar.

Indian security forces continue to be on alert in the two largest cities, New Delhi and Bombay for possible attacks by Islamic guerrillas. Security has been high since last week's bombings in Bombay, which killed more than 50 people.

Political analysts say the renewed violence threatens to set back peace moves between India and Pakistan.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee warned last week that meaningful talks with Pakistan will not be possible until terrorist attacks in India are stopped.

India accuses Pakistan of supporting and funding Islamic rebels who have waged a separatist insurgency in Indian Kashmir since 1989. Pakistan strongly denies the charge. Kashmir is divided between the two countries, but claimed in its entirety by both, and has triggered two wars between them.

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