July 2003 News

Indian Army Brigadier Among 11 Killed In Kashmir

22 July 2003
The Washington Post

Bangti: Suspected Islamic militants struck an Indian army camp in Kashmir on Tuesday killing eight soldiers, including a brigadier, and wounding two generals before being shot dead, police said. The heavily armed guerrillas hurled grenades and fired wildly as they stormed the camp at dawn some 20 miles northwest of Jammu, the winter capital of the revolt-torn territory at the heart of half a century of tensions with Pakistan. Seven soldiers, including an army Hindu priest, died in the suicide raid that came hours after suspected rebels killed six people and wounded 46 on Monday night in an attack on pilgrims setting out for the Vaishno Devi shrine, one of the holiest Hindu sites in Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir. After the army shot dead two guerrillas and believed the incident was over, a third militant emerged from behind bushes and hurled grenades at a team of top officers who were inspecting the army camp site. Brigadier R.Govil died in hospital, a government official said. The militant also died. Lieutenant General Hari Prasad who heads the army's key northern command, Lieutenent General T.P.S. Brar and two other officers were wounded, he said. The victims were the highest ranking officers to be killed in recent years in Kashmir, where the army has been struggling to quell a nearly 14-year revolt. The latest violence in Kashmir appeared unlikely to derail slow but steady efforts to improve relations between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan. India's parliament - quick to blame Pakistan in the past - condemned the bloodshed but counseled restraint. 'There will be attacks like this, we have to make sure we do not get provoked,' said Prakash Mani Tripathi, a lawmaker from the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party which leads India's governing coalition. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw telephoned his Indian counterpart Yashwant Sinha to condemn the attacks, the Indian foreign ministry said. On Monday, Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke to Sinha and they agreed on a 'measured, step-by-step process' to build on a recent thaw between India and Pakistan, the foreign ministry said in a statement. Pakistan Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed also condemned the violence. 'We stand for peace. We want to live like good neighbors,' he said. 'We support the peace process.' None of the groups fighting Indian rule in Kashmir have claimed responsibility for the new attacks in the region. Security has been tightened for pilgrims bound for Amarnath, another key Hindu mountain shrine in Kashmir, who have been frequently targeted by militants in previous years. Indian Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani said the militants were trying to wreck the peace process in Kashmir, but would fail. 'There are good signs in Jammu and Kashmir,' he said. 'There are more pilgrims, there are more tourists this year. The militants are trying to break the normalcy that is coming on.' New Delhi accuses Islamabad of fueling the revolt. Pakistan denies the charge, saying it provides only moral backing to what it calls a legitimate freedom struggle.


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