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Attack in India Causes Tension with Pakistan - 2002-05-14

Indian authorities say two Islamic militant groups have claimed responsibility for an attack in the Jammu and Kashmir state that killed at least 34 people. The attack took place hours before Indian officials held talks with a senior U.S. official, who is in the region to defuse tensions between India and Pakistan. Tuesday's attack took place about 15 kilometers south of Indian Kashmir's winter capital Jammu. Authorities say three militants arrived by bus near an army camp. After opening fire on the bus passengers, they entered the lightly-guarded camp.

The suspected militants then turned their guns on the family quarters of soldiers. Several women and children were among the victims. The gunmen were killed in an intense battle with soldiers that followed. The attack was the worst in Kashmir in the last eight months.

Home minister Lal Krishna Advani told Parliament it was not a coincidence that the attack took place as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia, Christina Rocca was visiting the country.

"The incident appears to have been timed," he said, "to demonstrate to the world that despite the global coalition against terrorism, terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir will continue to be active."

Home Minister Advani said a new Islamic militant group known as the Al-Mansoorain and the Jamiat-ul Mujahedeen both claimed responsibility for the attack in two phone calls to a Kashmiri news agency. Indian officials say the Al-Mansoorain group has been established by the banned Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah blamed Pakistan for the attack, accusing Islamabad of failing to halt the entry of Islamic militants into Indian territory.

In Pakistan, a foreign ministry statement condemned the attack, and rejected allegations that Islamabad was behind the assault.

In New Delhi, Ms. Rocca also condemned the attack, calling it barbaric.

"It is just this type of barbarism that the war on terrorism is determined to stop," she said.

Ms. Rocca's talks with Indian officials focused on tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad. Both countries have massed tens of thousands of troops along their common borders. The military standoff is now in its fifth month, and international concern about a possible war between the rivals remains high. On Wednesday, Ms. Rocca travels to Islamabad to hold talks with Pakistani officials.

An Indian foreign ministry spokesperson, Nirupama Rao said New Delhi has emphasized that there can be no reduction in tension until Pakistan stops backing militant activity in Kashmir

"Pakistan really has to take necessary, meaningful, substantive steps to address the demands that we have made of that country," she said.

New Delhi accuses Pakistan of supporting terrorist activity in Kashmir, a charge Pakistan strongly denies. Tensions between the two countries escalated following last December's attack on the Indian parliament building by suspected Islamic militants.