Overnight Gunbattle In Indian Kashmir Kills Seven
27 July 2004
Srinagar: Two separatist militants and five Indian soldiers were killed in a night-long gunbattle inside a hotel on Kashmir's famous Dal lake, police said on Wednesday. Six Indian soldiers were wounded in the exchange of fire after two or three militants launched a suicide attack and fired at Hotel Leeward in Srinagar, summer capital of Indian Kashmir, late on Tuesday night. The hotel, one part of which extends over the lake, was occupied by soldiers who are in Kashmir to stamp out a 15-year-old revolt by Muslim insurgents against New Delhi's rule. 'The operation (against the militants) is over,' S.S. Rawat, Central Reserve Police Force Inspector General, told reporters. A militant group called Al-Mansurian telephoned newspaper offices late on Tuesday night saying three of its members had launched the attack to rebut a claim by authorities that a powerful guerrilla group had been wiped out from Srinagar. Police said they were not sure whether there was a third militant involved. Nearby residents said they heard intermittent firing through the night. The hotel adjoins houseboats popular with tourists who have been flocking to the scenic region this summer. Violence has mounted in Kashmir in recent weeks as a cautious peace process between India and Pakistan has slowly picked up pace after a series of meetings between top officials of the two countries. Both India and Pakistan lay claim to the Himalayan territory and the two countries have fought two out of their three wars over the disputed region, divided since the Indian subcontinent won independence from Britain in 1947. The Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers held talks in Islamabad last week and vowed once again to settle their differences over the region. New Delhi blames violence in Indian Kashmir on Pakistani militants crossing the heavily militarised Line of Control. Islamabad denies the charge, and calls the rebellion a 'legitimate freedom struggle' against Indian rule. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in Indian Kashmir, its only Muslim-majority state, since an insurgency erupted in 1989.