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Kashmir Violence Claims More Victims - 2003-04-26

In Indian Kashmir, three Islamic militants and two security personnel were reported killed Saturday in an attack on the state-run radio and television station there. There has been a surge of violence in the insurgency-wracked region over the past week.

Police say suspected Muslim militants drove a car laden with explosives to the main gates of the state-run radio and television office in the heart of Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar and then detonated the explosives.

Officials say the militants then tried to storm the complex, but were stopped by security forces. They say one attacker was killed outside the media office, and two others died in a gun battle outside a nearby mosque. Several soldiers were wounded in the fire fight.

Security forces were hunting for a fourth attacker.

The Al-Madina Regiment, an insurgent group in Kashmir, called local newspaper offices to claim responsibility for the bombing. More than a dozen Islamic militant groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with Pakistan for nearly a decade and a half.

Saturday's incident is the latest in a series of attacks blamed on Islamic guerrillas that have rocked Kashmir in the past week. On Friday, at least 14 people, including six soldiers, were killed, and more than 40 were wounded in separate incidents.

Violence has escalated following recent peace moves by India in the insurgency-wracked region. During a visit to Srinagar last week, Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee asked Kashmiris to join in a dialogue to restore peace in the region.

Mr. Vajpayee's government has appointed a negotiator, in hopes of starting a dialogue. But Kashmir's separatist groups say they will only talk directly with India's top political leaders.

Mr. Vajpayee has also offered to hold talks with Pakistan, but he says talks can only take place, if violence ends in the disputed region. Islamabad has welcomed New Delhi's peace initiative.

The U.S. deputy secretary of state, Richard Armitage, is scheduled to visit both India and Pakistan early next month. The United States has been urging the two countries to begin talks aimed at ending their differences over Kashmir, which is divided between the rivals. Two of the three wars the countries have fought since independence have been over Kashmir.