July 1999 News


Islamic Militants kill 19 in Kashmir Strike

20 July 1999

JAMMU, India- A group of militants swooped on a village in Indian Kashmir and shot dead 15 people before dawn on Tuesday, police said.

Domestic news agencies said four people were shot dead in a separate attack the previous night when gunmen fired randomly at employees of the restive state of Jammu and Kashmir's Border Roads Organisation.

The attacks came amid mounting fears of a violent backlash by separatist insurgents following a two-month clash between Indian armed forces and hundreds of infiltrators at Kargil, in the north of the disputed Himalayan territory.

A senior police official said eight village defence committee members as well as two men and five women were killed in the attack at Doda district's Thattri village, about 165 km (103 miles) from Jammu, the state's winter capital.

He said six people were also wounded, four of them seriously. Most of the six gunmen's victims were Hindus. News agencies said that in the other attack, in the Mandi area of Poonch, militants killed four employees of the engineering wing of the Border Roads Organisation and wounded another at around 11 p.m. (1730 GMT).

United News of India quoted official sources as saying that foreign mercenaries operating in the Kashmir valley had been asked to eliminate village defence committees, attack isolated security posts and lay anti-personnel mines to intensify the "proxy war".

"...there were clear directions to militants 'from their masters across the border following their humiliating defeat in Kargil' to step up militancy, 'harass' the security forces and hamper their movement in far-flung areas by laying anti-personnel mines and improvised explosive devices," it said.

The infiltrators, who were holed up on mountain vantage points around Kargil, retreated behind the ceasefire line dividing India and Pakistan this week after a withdrawal agreement reached by the military operations chiefs of both sides.

However, Press Trust of India said the army fired at the infiltrators in a remaining pocket of infiltration in the Mushkoh valley.

Although the clash in the north has almost fizzled out, New Delhi is concerned about some 800 militants it says have sneaked into other parts of Jammu and Kashmir since early May.

India accuses its neighbour of supporting separatist rebels to foment a "proxy war", but Pakistan says it provides only moral and diplomatic support. Officials say some 25,000 people have died in a decade of insurgency in India's only Moslem-majority state.

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