The authorities in the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir say 25 members of a Hindu marriage party have been killed in an ambush by separatist militants.
The BBC's Mike Wooldridge reports from New DelhiThe BBC correspondent in New Delhi says Indian police report the killings took place on Friday afternoon as the wedding party returned to their village. The police say the group was fired on by a number "armed militants".
Seven others were also injured.
The attack took place at Champnagri town, in the mountainous Doda district of the state, 175km north-east of Jammu city.
None of the militant groups involved in separatist activity in Jammu and Kashmir has so far admitted responsibility. But the authorities say there has been an increase in militant activity there in recent months.
The BBC correspondent says this attack would appear to be the latest in series. In April, 26 Hindus were killed in a single attack on another village in the state and four more in May.
These latest killings, immediately condemned by the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Farouk Abdullah, come at a time when he and the Hindu Nationalist-led central government have been talking of a new drive to combat the armed separatists.
The authorities maintain that they have the active backing of Pakistan, though Pakistan has always denied arming or funding them.
Ownership of Kashmir, with its majority Muslim population, has been the subject of dispute between India and Pakistan since gaining independence 50 years ago.
The chief minister of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir has appealed to Hindus and Muslims to stand united against acts of terror, following the shooting dead of 25 Hindus from a wedding party on Friday.
The minister, Farooq Abdullah, was speaking as the search for the killers continues. Large areas have been sealed off by the security forces.
Parties on all sides have condemned the massacre, and the separatist All-Party Hurriyat Conference demanded an independent investigation.
The police believe that Muslim Kashmiri separatists were responsible for the attack and they say their main concern is to prevent any backlash.
The killings took place at Champnagri town, in the mountainous Doda district, 175 kilometres north-east of Jammu city in an area populated by both Hindus and Muslims. It is the second big massacre of Hindus in the area this year.
All those killed - including the groom - have been cremated according to Hindu custom. The men were singled out and shot before the gunmen fled, taking jewellery and cash with them. The bride was among the handful who survived.
Shops and businesses in Doda closed for the day in protest against the massacre.
On Saturday, All India Radio reported that police had identified the leader of the five-member gang responsible for the killings as a member of the banned Hizbul Mujahideen, the armed wing of the Jamaat-e-Islami separatist group.
The Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, said he was ordering the Indian Kashmiri authorities to take the "sternest" actions against the killers.
The Indian Home Minister, LK Advani, has said he believes the separatists are trying to frighten Hindus out of the hills bordering the Kashmir Valley. He said extra measures would be taken to flush out the armed militants.
Mr Abdullah, condemned the killings, describing them as "the handiwork of Pakistani agents."
The massacre comes at a time when Mr Abdullah and the Hindu Nationalist-led central government have been talking of a new drive to combat the armed separatists.
The authorities maintain that the separatists have the active backing of Pakistan, although Pakistan has always denied arming or funding them.
Ownership of Kashmir, with its majority Muslim population, has been the subject of dispute between India and Pakistan since they gained independence 50 years ago and has sparked two wars between them.
Union Home Minister L K Advani will tomorrow visit Doda district in Jammu and Kashmir which last week witnessed massacre of 25 persons by extremists and will then proceed to Srinagar where on June 24 he would attend a high-power meeting on development plans for the state.
Defence Minister George Fernandes, Power Minister R P kumaramangalam, Railway Minister Nitish Kumar and Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Jaswant Singh will also be going to Srinagar to attend the development meeting. State Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah is expected to press for early central clearance of infrastructure projects and developmental schemes in Jammu & Kashmir.
Pending development projects and higher allocation to J & K would be taken up in the one-day meet at Srinagar. Mr Advani who has returned to the capital on Sunday after visiting Punjab border is also scheduled to visit Rajasthan villages along the Pakistan border on June 30.
SRINAGAR, June 22 (DHNS)
Stating that he can no longer wait for the restoration of peace, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah today appealed to the Government of India to drop the nuclear bombs either on Pakistan or Jammu and Kashmir.
Addressing a two-day Urdu academics conference here today, he said "Pakistan is killing our people daily. The latest incident is Champhari village in Doda district. Enough is enough. The Government of India will have to drop the nuclear bombs either on Pakistan or on Jammu and Kashmir to end these daily killings. I appeal to them to take a decision in this connection at the earliest as I can no longer wait for the restoration of peace."
Dr Abdullah added that India can afford to sacrifice all its 90 crore population but will not leave Kashmir. "No power on earth can snatch away Kashmir from India," he said.
Ridiculing the statement of Pakistan Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan that they will win a war within one-and-a-half hours, Dr Abdullah said: "They must be having some magical power."
Mr Khan, he said, is trying to dislodge his Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief by issuing provocative statments.
Referring to the recent carnage in Doda, Dr Abdullah said they (militants) killed 26 innocent and poor Hindus and they had done nothing. "They want to kill Farooq Abdullah and cannot, but why are they targetting the poor commoners" he said adding that "I lost words to console the bereaved families...what do you think I should tell them...by offering Rs 1 lakh by compensation, offering a job, seeking an apology, can I get husbands of the brides, sons of those wailing mothers back..."
These mindless bloody killings are adding to the communalism and making people mad.
Advising people not to get fooled and sail in two boats, the chief minister said all the people sailing in two boats finally get drowned.
These people who tell one thing here and encash cheques in the Pakistani embassy are not the well-wishers of the state and the people, he added.
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