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India Blames Pakistan for Monday's Kashmir Attack - 2003-03-25

India's deputy prime minister has blamed Pakistan for the continuing violence in Indian Kashmir, where 24 Hindus were killed in an attack by suspected Islamic rebels on Monday. On Tuesday, Lal Krishna Advani visited the troubled region, which has witnessed a sharp surge in violence in recent weeks.

Hundreds of Kashmiri protesters shouted anti-government and anti-police slogans as Indian Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, visited Nadi Marg village, a day after gunmen massacred 24 Hindus. Dozens of mourners wailed at the loss of their family members.

The tiny village lies about 50 kilometers south of Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar, and was populated by mostly Hindu families.

Mr. Advani tells Kashmiris that innocent people, including women and children, were targeted to make Hindus flee the area.

Kashmir is India's only Muslim-majority province. Tens of thousands of Hindus fled after an insurgency erupted there 13 years ago, but some still continue to live in the region.

Before visiting the site, Mr. Advani told reporters violence continues in Kashmir because of Pakistan. Although the Indian leader did not directly blame Pakistan for the latest attack, he said the situation would improve if Islamabad stops training and sending Muslim militants into India.

New Delhi has long accused Islamabad of supporting Islamic guerrilla groups that are leading the separatist movement in Kashmir. Pakistan strongly denies the charge and has condemned the latest violence.

Several towns in Kashmir, including the two main cities of Srinagar and Jammu observed a strike to protest the latest massacre. Schools and businesses shut down, and streets were deserted.

It was the worst attack in Kashmir since a new state government came to power six months ago. No group has claimed responsibility, but Indian police suspect Islamic militants.

There has been a sharp surge in violence in recent weeks in Kashmir, after months of relative peace. The United States, Britain and the European Union have condemned the violence.

Political analysts say the attack has undermined the state government's effort to start a peace process in the troubled region. The government came to power in October, promising to restore peace with what it called a "healing touch."

More than 37,000 people have died in insurgency-related violence in Kashmir since 1989. At least a dozen guerrilla groups in Kashmir are fighting for either independence from India or merger with Pakistan.