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Suspected Muslim Militants Kill 2 in Indian Kashmir - 2003-10-17


In Indian Kashmir, suspected Muslim militants have killed two soldiers in an attack outside the residence of the state's top elected official.

Police say suspected Islamic militants hurled grenades about 100 meters from Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed's house in Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar triggering a gun battle between security personnel and the attackers.

Dozens of policemen and soldiers later surrounded a nearby shopping complex where the militants were believed to have fled. Bullets shattered windowpanes, as operations to flush out the militants continued through the day.

Kashmir's senior police official, Gopal Sharma, says scores of people were evacuated from the area. "The area has been cordoned off," he announced. "The situation is under our control. We have removed some civilians, we have occupied the ground floor of the building [shopping center]." Two news photographers were among several civilians and soldiers injured in the explosions. Mr. Sayeed had left his house hours before the attack for an official function in Uttar Pradesh state. Indian Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani linked Pakistan to Friday's violence, saying the attack shows "our neighbor's attitude has not changed." He says the Pakistan-based Al Mansoorian militant group had claimed responsibility for the attack.

In a telephone call to a local news agency, two other little-known militant groups Al Nasirin and Farzandan-e-Milat also said they had carried out the attack. Friday's attack was the latest incident in a surge of violence blamed on Muslim militants fighting since 1989 to end Indian rule over its part of the divided Kashmir region. It has set back hopes of restoring peace between India and Pakistan.

India blames Pakistan for supporting Islamic militant groups waging an insurgency in Indian Kashmir, a charge Islamabad denies. The two countries have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.

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