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Indian Soldiers Killed in Kashmir Attack - 2004-08-05

Suspected Islamic militants attacked a paramilitary camp in Indian Kashmir, killing nine soldiers. It is the second attack in the region in a week, and came as India and Pakistan opened talks on the disputed region.

Police say suspected militants launched the attack with grenades late Wednesday, then fired automatic weapons at a heavily guarded camp in Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar.

V.D. Tokas, the deputy inspector general of the Central Reserve Police Force, says a fierce nightlong gun battle ended early Thursday.

Mr. Tokas says several soldiers and one of the militants who stormed the camp died in the firing.

Several soldiers were wounded.

A militant group known as Al Mansoorain has claimed responsibility for the attack. Last week, the same group said it attacked another paramilitary camp on Dal Lake in Kashmir.

It is one of a dozen Islamic groups fighting to free part of Kashmir from Indian rule since 1989. The region's population is predominately Muslim, and it was divided between India and Pakistan when they became independent.

The latest attack came as officials from India and Pakistan held talks New Delhi on the Siachen glacier. It is the world's highest battlefield, six thousand meters up in the Himalayan mountains.

The two rivals have wrangled over this remote region in Kashmir since 1984, when the Indian army occupied part of the glacier.

The Siachen glacier is one the disputes being discussed as part of wide-ranging peace talks that India and Pakistan began earlier this year

The head of the Pakistani delegation, Hamid Nawaz Khan, voiced optimism as the talks began.

Mr. Khan says he has brought a message peace from Pakistan, and hopes that the dialogue on Siachen glacier will be useful for both countries.

Two years ago, India and Pakistan were on the verge of war over Kashmir. Now, they are holding a series of talks aimed at restoring good neighborly relations.

On Wednesday they concluded talks on facilitating the flow of people from one country to the other.

Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Navtaj Sarna explained the steps being considered.

"Views were also exchanged on liberalizing the visa regime and expanding the scope of the 1974 bilateral protocol on visits to religious shrines by increasing the number of pilgrims and shrines on both sides," he said.

But the efforts by the two sides to ease tensions have not deterred the Islamic separatists, and violence in Kashmir continues unabated.