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7 Killed in Indian Kashmir Violence - 2004-07-28


Suspected Islamic militants in Indian Kashmir, have attacked a military camp, killing five soldiers and wounding several others. Two gunmen were also killed in the clash, which comes at the height of the tourist season in the Himalayan region, claimed by both India and neighboring Pakistan.

The late night gun battle erupted in Kashmir's most famous tourist spot - the scenic Dal Lake.

Officials say two heavily armed attackers came by boat under cover of darkness to the security camp, located in a former hotel on an island in the lake.

The Inspector General of the Central Reserve Police Force, S.S. Rawat says one of the raiders was killed at the gate of the camp.

Mr. Rawat says soldiers lobbed grenades and fired shots for several hours to overcome the second attacker who took shelter in a small room that was difficult to access.

A little known militant group called Al-Mansoorain claimed responsibility for the attack, saying three of its members had stormed the camp, and one had escaped.

Indian officials say the group is a front for the hard-line Laskhar-e-Taiba, which is one of the main rebel groups fighting for Kashmir's independence or its merger with predominantly Muslim Pakistan.

The attack on Lake Dal came as hundreds of tourists stayed in houseboats that cram the lake in summer, and in hotels on its shores. Houseboat owners said the intermittent firing through the night alarmed many visitors.

Tourists, most of them from other parts of India, have flooded Kashmir this summer following peace moves between India and Pakistan.

The efforts by the two arch rivals to settle their dispute over Kashmir through a dialogue has helped reduce the violence in the region. But, sporadic attacks blamed on Islamic militants still continue.

Kashmir was a tourist paradise until an armed insurgency shut off the flow of visitors after 1989, and turned the region into a virtual war zone. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in separatist violence in the Himalayan region, which is divided between India and Pakistan.

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