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Kashmir Hostage Crisis Ends; All 3 Militants Killed

Authorities in Indian Kashmir say a day-long hostage crisis in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region ended late Wednesday after security forces killed the last of the three militants holed up in a house.

The authorities say three of seven hostages taken by the militants also are feared dead.

The hostage drama began early Wednesday after three suspected Muslim militants - believed to have slipped across the border from Pakistan into Indian Kashmir - shot dead two civilians and a soldier.

The suspects then fled to a nearby house, taking a family hostage.

Police official Inspector General K. Rajendra said authorities are looking for more infiltrators who are trying to exploit recent unrest in Jammu.

Also Wednesday, Indian security forces opened fire on stone-throwing Muslim separatist protesters in the town of Handwara who defied a curfew, killing at least two people.

Tension has run high in the Himalayan region since June, when the government announced plans to transfer land in a Muslim-majority area to a Hindu shrine. Muslim protests prompted the government to rescind the plan, angering Hindus.

The controversy sparked Hindu protests in Jammu, and Muslim protests in the Kashmir Valley, where they grew into mass anti-India demonstrations.

Kashmir is divided between Pakistan and India but claimed by both. The two countries have fought two wars over the disputed territory.

Islamic separatist groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with Pakistan since 1989. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in insurgency-related violence.