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Suspected Islamic Militants Kill Villagers in Indian Kashmir

In Indian Kashmir, suspected Islamic militants have killed at least five people and wounded nine others, including four children. This latest incident comes as India claims overall violence in the insurgency-wracked region is declining.

Police in Indian Kashmir say Islamic guerrillas attacked two Hindu families with guns and grenades, as they were sharing an evening meal in a remote village about 75 kilometers northeast of the winter capital, Jammu.

Jammu is a Hindu majority region in the Muslim majority province of Kashmir.

The targeted families were members of village defense committees. These committees consist of groups of villagers, armed and trained by security forces to defend against militant attacks.

Defense committee members have often been targeted by Islamic rebels, who have been fighting since 1989 to end Indian rule in Kashmir.

Officials say attacks in Kashmir have increased in recent weeks, but Home Minister Shivraj Patil told parliament Friday that, in the past year, overall violence has declined in the restive region, where an estimated 40,000 people have been killed since the insurgency flared.

"During the current year till July end, the number of violent incidents has come down by 24.5 percent, compared to the corresponding period last year," said Shivraj Patil. "Similarly, the killings of civilians have declined by 28.5 percent since up to July. And it has happened because of fencing of the border, because of the vigilance of the forces, because of the policies of the government."

Political analysts also attribute the fall in violence to a peace process that began last year between India and Pakistan.

The latest incident took place two days ahead of India's Independence Day. Rebel groups, including those in Kashmir, often step up attacks at this time, and tens-of-thousands of security personnel have been deployed throughout the country to prevent violence.