July 2004 News

Seven Die In Kashmir Gun Battle

28 July 2004

Srinagar: The authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir say that five policemen and two suspected separatists have been killed in a gun battle. It took place at one of the territory's most famous tourist attractions, Dal Lake, in the centre of Srinagar. Local officials say the militants attacked a paramilitary camp based inside a hotel complex on the lake. No tourists were harmed. Visits to Kashmir have risen since India and Pakistan began peace moves last year. The gun battle raged for several hours before the attackers were finally overcome. At least six Indian police officers were wounded in the clash, which a militant separatist group, al-Mansurian, said it carried out. 'The operation [against the militants] is over,' a senior Indian paramilitary official told reporters. A senior police official told Associated Press that the rebels 'have not been identified yet'. Security around the hotel has been tightened and a hunt was underway for more militants inside the security camp, a police spokesman told AFP news agency. 'Tourists safe' A large number of tourists were staying in houseboats and hotels on the lake at the time of of the attack. 'All the tourists are safe,' the police spokesman said. A tourist from Delhi said he spent a frightening night with his family in their houseboat on the lake even as the fighting continued close by. 'We were very scared,' Surinder Bali told the Associated Press. 'But the houseboat owner sat up with us all night to comfort us.' Correspondents said tourists flocked the Dal Lake area on Wednesday morning inspite of the overnight fighting. 'I am not scared at all,' tourist Sarita Kumar said. 'I have three days to spend here and I am going to make the most of it.' Militant separatists have been fighting Indian rule in Kashmir - which both Pakistan and India claim - since 1989. Around 40,000 people have been killed since then. But violence has decreased in Kashmir since a ceasefire between India and Pakistan last November. The two nuclear neighbours have been holding peace talks since January this year. The Indian and Pakistani foreign ministers met in Islamabad last week and restated their aim to defuse tensions over Kashmir.


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