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Suspected Islamic Militants Kill Policeman in Srinagar

Police say suspected Islamic militants hurled grenades in the main commercial district of Kashmir's summer capital Wednesday afternoon.

An attack by suspected Islamic militants in Indian Kashmir has killed one policeman and wounded eight others. The attack follows a relative lull in militant violence in the region, which has been wracked by a separatist insurgency for two decades.

Police say suspected Islamic militants hurled grenades in the main commercial district of Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar, Wednesday afternoon.

Gunshots echoed in the area for several hours as security forces fanned out to capture the militants, who hid in a nearby building, lobbing grenades and firing intermittently.

Panicked shoppers were quickly evacuated from the area.

A spokesman for the Central Reserve Police Force, Prabhakar Tripathi said the militants were able to mount the attack because the area was crowded.

"A large number of people are present at any point of time," he said. "So taking advantage of the large gathering there, or you can say it is winter season. So someone can easily hide a grenade."

Jamiat-ul-Mujahedeen, an Islamic rebel group active in the area claimed responsibility for the attack by faxing a statement to a domestic news agency in Srinagar.

It was the first major attack by militants in more than a year in Srinagar, which has been the scene of many such attacks since 1989, when a separatist militant insurgency erupted in Indian Kashmir.

Violence in the region began declining after India and Pakistan began a peace process in 2004. Although the peace negotiations have stalled, there has been relative calm in Kashmir and tens of thousands of tourists have been flocking to the region in recent years.

The attack came on a day when Indian Kashmir's chief minister, Omar Abdullah, marked a year in office by pledging to slash security forces in the region, if militant violence continues to decline. Before the latest attack, he said that the need for men in uniform will reduce drastically if peace prevails.

India pulled out about 30,000 troops from the Kashmir border, last year.

New Delhi blames Islamic militants based in Pakistan of fomenting the insurgency.