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Monday, January 26, 1998 Published at 09:01 GMT


Villagers massacred in Kashmir
image: [ The aftermath of the massacre in Kashmir ]
The aftermath of the massacre in Kashmir

The BBC's Altaf Hussain visited the scene and describes what he found (1'24")
Gunmen have killed 23 people - including women and children - in an attack in the north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, police say.

The attack happened in the village of Wanhama, 17 miles north of Srinagar, on Sunday night.

All of the villagers slaughtered in the attack were Hindus and police have blamed Muslim militants for the massacre.

The Kashmir Minister for Home Affairs, Ali Mohammed Sagar, said more than 50 attackers stormed the village and shot and mutilated the inhabitants.

"They were cut to pieces," he said. "What has taken place is highly condemnable. It is shameful."

Police said the attackers also set fire to a Hindu temple and a house.

"They fired indiscriminately," a police officer said. "There are scores of bullet marks on the homes."

In nearby Srinagar, a rocket exploded in the air on Monday morning, causing confusion but no injuries.

Monday is Republic Day in Kashmir and India - the 48th anniversary of the creation of the Indian democratic constitution.

[ image: Militants want Kashmir to be independent or join Pakistan]
Militants want Kashmir to be independent or join Pakistan
Militants in Kashmir want the the predominantly Muslim state to become part of Pakistan or become independent.

About a dozen groups exist and they are blamed for more than 20,000 deaths since 1989.

In Srinagar, shops closed in response to a strike called by militants to protest against Republic Day.

But Kashmiri politicians united in condemning the violence.

One of the state's most respected Muslim politicians, Shabir Shah, said: "It is a dastardly act. The killings have been committed by criminals. I condemn it. It's a game plan to alienate [Hindus] from us."

Abdul Ghani, chief spokesman for the pro-separatist Freedom Conference, said: "We in Kashmir fall to bullets irrespective of caste, colour or religion."

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