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Rebel clash leaves eight dead in Indian Kashmir

©

Latest update : 2008-05-12

The death toll in a weekend gunfight between Islamic rebels and troops in Indian-administered Kashmir has risen to eight, a senior military officer said Monday.

The death toll in a weekend gunfight between Islamic rebels and troops in Indian-administered Kashmir has risen to eight, a senior military officer said Monday.

The prolonged shootout that erupted Sunday in the Himalayan region's Samba area, 70 kilometres (44 miles) south of Kashmir's winter capital Jammu, came after a sharp drop in violence in recent months.

Three civilians, a photo-journalist, two soldiers and two militants died, said Lieutenant General Vinay Sharma, who oversaw the counter insurgency operation.

The pro-Pakistan Al-Mansoorian group in a telephone call to a local media organisation said its militants carried out the raid during which the rebels took at least five people hostage.

One of the hostages was among the dead but the others were rescued at the end of the operation on Sunday.

Al-Mansoorian spokesman Amir Mir refused to take responsibility for the civilian deaths, saying the group was targeting the Indian army which has been battling the insurgency in the region since 1989.

"We are not responsible for the civilian casualties, those deaths took place during cross-fire" between the army and the rebels, Mir said.

Violence has sharply dropped in Indian Kashmir since the launch of a peace process in January 2004, but Indian officials say militants are still trying to cross into the scenic Himalayan region to sustain the insurgency.

India's foreign minister is scheduled to visit Pakistan later this month to review the slow-moving dialogue process started by the nuclear-armed rivals.

The two countries used to routinely exchange artillery and machine-gun fire until a November 2003 truce that is still holding in the disputed region which has triggered two of their three wars.
 

Date created : 2008-05-12

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