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Indian Minister Survives Kashmir Assassination Attempt - 2002-06-15

Indian officials say the chief minister of Indian administered Kashmir escaped a grenade attack by suspected Muslim militants. Cross-border shelling between Indian and Pakistani troops in the disputed Kashmir region has killed at least two people and wounded several others.

A defense official says two grenades were fired by suspected Islamic militants at a government building as Farooq Abdullah, the chief minister of Jammu-Kashmir state, was inaugurating the building in the capital Srinagar.

Officials say one of the grenades failed to explode. The second landed in a nearby area. No one was injured.

India blames such attacks on Islamic militants, saying they entered Kashmir from Pakistani territory. Islamabad says all infiltration has stopped and denies actively supporting Muslim militants.

In recent days there has been some easing of tensions between India and Pakistan after New Delhi said there was a drop in incursions by Muslim militants - but Indian officials say it is too early to make a definite assessment.

Lt. General J B S Yadav is commanding troops posted on the frontline in Kashmir - less than 300 meters away from the Pakistani border. He told reporters it is difficult to prevent militants crossing from Pakistani territory into Indian Kashmir across the high Himalayan mountains, and says it will take them three to six months to decide if infiltration has ended.

"For every detected infiltration there will be at least three to four undetected infiltration that would have taken place. Because it is humanly impossible to place a man at every hundred yards to guard this vast area.," he said.

India's Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh says he is considering a proposal by the United States to install high-tech ground sensors along the Kashmir border to detect infiltration of militants. The proposal was made by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who visited the region recently.

"This is a matter that will now be discussed between the Ministry of Defense and the Government of United States of America, the technical parts of it, how it is to be done, who does it, etc," he said.

Despite the easing of tensions between the two countries, Indian and Pakistani troops continue to exchange artillery and gunfire at several areas along the frontlines. Indian officials say two civilians and a soldier were killed in the firing on the Indian side.

Meanwhile India has condemned Friday's bomb attack outside the U.S. consulate in Karachi. Foreign Minister Singh says New Delhi is "grieved and unhappy" about the terrorist act.