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28 Killed in Kashmir Attack - 2004-05-23

In Indian Kashmir, at least 28 people have been killed and 10 others injured in an attack blamed on suspected Islamic militants. Officials say the bus caught fire after it hit a powerful land mine on a mountain highway. The bus was on its way from Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar to the winter capital Jammu.

A senior police official, K. Rajendra, said the bus was carrying soldiers and their family members. "They were all personnel who were going on leave, and their families were traveling in the bus and essentially they were the ones who were targeted," he said.

The dead and wounded included soldiers and some the women and children on the bus.

Kashmir's leading militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen, says it carried out the attack to avenge the recent killing of rebel commanders by security forces.

The Hizbul Mujahideen, along with several other Muslim groups, is on the frontlines of a separatist insurgency that has raged in Indian Kashmir since 1989.

The attack is the deadliest in months, occurring three days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pledged to restore peace to the region.

"We will explore all possible opportunities to bring peace and progress to this vital state of ours that is Jammu and Kashmir," said Mr. Singh.

Prime Minister Singh, who took office Saturday, has also vowed to pursue peace with Pakistan as a top priority.

Islamabad's leaders have welcomed that pledge, and say they are ready to resolve all disputes with India, including Kashmir. The mountain region is divided between the two countries, but both claim it entirely.

But Pakistan's Foreign Ministry reports a dialogue between the two countries on nuclear issues has been postponed. Islamabad officials say India requested the postponement because a new government has taken office in New Delhi.

In a statement, Islamabad expressed hope that the dialogue process between the two countries will be scheduled as early as possible. The two countries resumed a formal dialogue in February as part of a peace process begun by India's former prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The latest round of talks was scheduled to start Tuesday in New Delhi.