India Sends More Troops To Hunt Kashmir Killers
2 May 2006
Jammu: India rushed hundreds of extra troops to hunt for Islamist militants in the remote mountains of Kashmir on Tuesday, after 35 Hindus were killed over two days in one of the worst massacres in the region in years. The troop deployment began as a general strike - called to protest against the killings - shut down the predominantly Hindu Jammu region of Indian Kashmir, where some half a million soldiers and policemen are deployed.Suspected Islamist militants shot dead 22 Hindus in two villages in the mountains of Doda district, 170 km (106 miles) northeast of Jammu, Kashmir's winter capital, early on Monday. On the same day, nine bullet-riddled bodies of Hindus were found in the neighboring district of Udhampur. Four more bodies had been found in the same area on Sunday. 'We are definitely augmenting troop levels to prevent easier movement of militants in these areas,' a senior police officer told Reuters. An Islamist revolt against Indian rule in the disputed region - claimed both by India and Pakistan and ruled by them in parts - has killed more than 45,000 people since 1989. The attacks came as India and Pakistan launched a fresh round of discussions to boost links between the two parts of Kashmir under their control, including opening of up more crossing points and movement of goods across the heavily-militarized frontier. Separately, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was due to kick off talks on Wednesday with Kashmir's main political separatist alliance, the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, to find a way to resolve the decades-old conflict in the region. SPIKE IN VIOLENCE Schools, banks and offices in Doda and Udhampur districts were closed, following the strike call and traffic was largely limited to security vehicles and government cars. Federal Home Minister Shivraj Patil, who visited those wounded in the Doda attack, said the attackers were trying to trigger sectarian strife. 'It has been noticed that not only in Jammu and Kashmir but in other places ... some people are trying to make brothers fight with each other,' he told a news conference, referring to militant attacks at religious sites elsewhere in the country. Some Indian officials say the massacre could be a response to high voter turnout in by- elections last week in Doda, and could be aimed at souring the mood ahead of Wednesday's talks. Residents of Kashmir, a region that triggered two of three India-Pakistan wars, said they were weary of violence. 'We have seen so much bloodshed that some of have us have become insensitive. These killings should end,' Thakur Dass, who was visiting a relative wounded in the Doda attack, said. Pakistan condemned the killings. 'We condemn all acts of terrorism. We are against terrorism because we ourselves have been victim of terrorism,' Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said.