India: 17 Die In Kashmir Violence Ahead Of Separatists' Visit To Pakistan
31 May 2005
Srinagar: Twelve Islamic militants, four Indian troops and a civilian have been killed in an upsurge of violence in Kashmir just ahead of a visit to Pakistan by moderate separatists, officials said Tuesday. The toll was the highest in months in the disputed region. The deaths come after India on Monday called on Pakistan to live up to its pledge to dismantle militant camps in Pakistan-held Kashmir following a spate of killings and warned guerrilla violence could 'greatly upset' a peace drive by the two rivals. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training Islamic rebels to fight its rule in the Indian zone of Jammu and Kashmir, a charge Islamabad denies. Soldiers killed five rebels in a clash in the border district of Poonch, 240 kilometres (148 miles) northwest of Jammu, Kashmir's winter capital, a defence spokesman said. A soldier also died in the clash, he said. Three more rebels and two soldiers died in another clash in Nildoora village, 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the summer capital Srinagar, police said. Hardline rebel group Al Mansurain which is fighting to make Indian Kashmir part of Pakistan said in a statement the three slain rebels belonged to the group. It said five troops died in the clash but police said the figure was two. In separate clashes late Monday, four rebels died in northern Baramulla and Kupwara districts, police said. A soldier was killed in the fighting and two houses were damaged, a police spokesman said. Police said suspected rebels shot dead a Muslim in the southern Rajouri district late Monday. The violence came ahead of a planned journey by moderate separatists Thursday aboard a newly launched trans-Kashmir bus service for talks in Pakistan about the future of the region. Separatists have been invited by Pakistan, but hardliners have rejected the offer to protest what they say is Pakistan's too flexible attitude on the issue of Kashmir. Many say the launch of the bus service is the first tangible fruit of the peace process. Four hardline rebel groups, including Al Mansurain, have opposed the service and threatened to turn the buses into 'coffins.' However, they have not threatened the separatists. Tens of thousands of people have died since the insurgency against Indian rule in Kashmir was launched in 1989.