July 2001 News

29 killed in J&K as Indo-Pak peace talks continue

15 July 2001
The Times of India

SRINAGAR: For the second day in a row, Indian and Pakistani forces fired at each across the border in Kashmir on Sunday, as their leaders met to hold peace talks. When the summit began in New Delhi on Saturday, there also was a surge of violence between Indian soldiers and militants in Jammu-Kashmir state, killing as many as 29 people. No new casualties were reported on Sunday, but it wasn"t clear if that was because the fighting had stopped in the remote Himalayan region, or that word of it simply hadn"t surfaced yet. Separatist rebels in the state had vowed to step up their attacks during the Indian- Pakistan summit, which they oppose. The cross-border gun battles and Saturday's killings were an inauspicious beginning to formal talks between Pakistani President Gen Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Sunday in Agra. It was the second day of meetings for Musharraf, who arrived in New Delhi on Saturday for the first summit in two years between nuclear rivals who have fought two wars over Kashmir. Troops on both sides of the tense frontier, considered one of the world's most dangerous flashpoints, exchanged small-arms fire at the Samba sector of the disputed border, 55 km southwest of Jammu, for several hours on Sunday, a police spokesman said. A similar exchange occurred on the same day near Arnia, 45 km southwest of Jammu, the spokesman said. He added that there were no casualties on the Indian side. Pakistan did not immediately report any injuries or deaths. Early on Saturday, the two forces briefly exchanged gunfire for the first time this year, hours before Musharraf landed in New Delhi. Each side blamed the other for starting that gun battle, and neither reported casualties. On Saturday, 22 Islamic militants were gunned down in Jammu and Kashmir state, and a police constable was killed in scattered clashes, police and Army officials said. In addition, guerrillas killed a militant who had sided with the government, and troops en route to a base camp returned fire when they were attacked by Islamic militants, killing a 10-year-old girl and another civilian, said Ashok Bhan, Kashmir's inspector-general of police. Abu Osama, a spokesman for the Pakistan- based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, said the militant group had attacked the Army convoy in Achabul, 65 km south of Srinagar, Jammu-Kashmir's summer capital, killing three army men. But the Army could not confirm that. Up to 60,000 people have been killed in Kashmir since an uprising that began in 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training Muslim insurgents, but Islamabad says it provides only moral and diplomatic support. Pakistan, which turns a blind eye to training camps run by the heavily armed militants on its side of the border, accuses India of gross human rights violations in Kashmir. In Jammu and Kashmir, where Pakistan claims India has 600,000 troops, soldiers watched the summit in New Delhi and Agra on TV with mixed feelings. "If he (Musharraf) will not do any future mischief, there is no harm in making an enemy into a friend," said a soldier patrolling the tense streets of Srinagar. Another soldier said he can"t trust Pakistan, given what it has done in the past. (AP)   


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