Nine dead, four injured in Kashmiri violence

SRINAGAR, India - Clashes between Islamic militants and the Indian army killed nine people Saturday, while a grenade blast injured four women in the Himalayan province of Kashmir.

Six militants and an army captain were killed when Indian forces ambushed a group of rebels in Pir Bhadesar, 125 miles northwest of Jammu, Kashmir's winter capital, officials said.

Army officials said the militants belonged to the Pakistan-based Harkat-ul-Jehad-i-Islami. They were in the area to create violence on Aug. 15, India's Independence Day, officials said.

Soldiers also killed two militants in Poonch, 140 miles northwest of Jammu. No army casualties were reported.

Also Saturday, four women were wounded in Srinagar when suspected Islamic guerrillas lobbed a grenade near a deeply revered Muslim shrine.

A Hungarian mother and her daughter suffered minor shrapnel wounds in the attack near the Hazratbal mosque, in the Indian-controlled section of Kashmir, a police spokesman said. They were expected to recover.

Two Kashmiri women were also injured, one suffering serious wounds, police said.

''The bomb was thrown toward us. I pulled my mother away and it went off,'' said the younger Hungarian woman, 22-year-old Rita Anna, who was recounting the attack from her hospital bed. She suffered wounds in the head and arms while her mother, Maria Anna, 53, was hit in the chest, chin and legs.

No rebel groups claimed responsibility for the attack. It came two days after the Hezb-ul Mujahedeen, Kashmir's main Muslim militant group, set off a powerful car bomb that killed 11 people and wounded 19 others in the heart of the capital.

Kashmir, a border region claimed by both India and Pakistan, has been the focus of an Islamic insurrection that has raged for 11 years and left some 25,000 dead. Muslim militants want the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir to break from India and remain independent or merge with Pakistan.

The Hezb-ul Mujahedeen had declared a cease-fire on July 24. The group called it off Tuesday when India agreed to peace talks but refused to include Pakistan in the process.

On Saturday, Hezb-ul Mujahedeen chief Sayed Salahuddin urged Pakistan to send troops into Kashmir, even if it means a war in South Asia.

''Pakistan should physically involve itself in Kashmir. We want war because war will solve the issue,'' Salahuddin said from his headquarters in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. ''We prefer to die 100 times than to live like this.''

Since the start of the secessionist uprising, militant Kashmiris and Pakistan have accused Indian soldiers of widespread atrocities, and Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have reported of widespread human rights abuses by troops.

Indian soldiers are accused of arresting and torturing suspected militants, burning down the homes of sympathizers and forcing evacuations. There are also widespread reports of rape.

India, meanwhile, accuses the militants of slaughtering hundreds of civilians. In the last two weeks, more than 100 civilians, most of them Hindus, were massacred. India blamed the pro-Pakistani guerrillas for the attacks.


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