Rebels Killed In Kashmir After Pilgrims Targeted: Police

20 July 2008
Agence France-Presse

Srinagar: Indian troops killed two Islamic militants in Kashmir after thwarting an attempt by rebels to attack a convoy of Hindu pilgrims visiting the state, police said Monday. Police said three other militants were also shot dead in two separate gunbattles overnight in two northern districts bordering Pakistan-ruled Kashmir. The attempted attack on the pilgrims happened Sunday evening when militants threw grenades at pilgrims returning to the region's summer capital, Srinagar, after visiting a popular Hindu shrine on the outskirts of the city. 'Militants lobbed hand grenades and opened fire towards a convoy of vehicles carrying Hindu pilgrims but alert troops reacted quickly and shot dead both the attackers,' a police officer Abdul Razaq said. He said no pilgrims were hurt in the attack. 'We have further strengthened security for the pilgrims,' Razaq said. The route to the shrine, based at the foothills of the Himalayas and visited by 400,000 pilgrims last year, has long been targeted by militants. An attack last year killed a local shopkeeper and wounded dozens of mainly pilgrims. The attempted attack came as top Indian and Pakistani diplomats were due to meet in New Delhi for the fifth round of talks under a peace process launched in 2004. Violence in Indian Kashmir has fallen sharply since the two countries started negotiations, but the past few days have been marred by violent attacks, which police blame on militants. On Saturday, nine Indian soldiers were killed and 16 injured when their bus was hit by an improvised explosive device near Srinagar. An Indian tourist and a Kashmiri boy were killed in a grenade explosion at the region's main mountain resort of Gulmarg on Sunday. Thirty-two people, including children and police officers, were hurt Friday in a similar grenade blast at a busy bus station south of Srinagar. The insurgency against Indian rule has claimed more than 43,000 lives since its start in 1989.