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Thursday, 10 May, 2001, 16:18 GMT 17:18 UK
Six Kashmiri villagers beheaded
Sniffer teams on alert in Srinagar
Police are on high alert in Srinagar
Six villagers in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir have been beheaded in an attack blamed on separatist militants.

Police say 11 Hindu villagers were confronted by a group of armed men while grazing cattle in the remote Doda district 250km (150 miles) north-east of Jammu, the state's winter capital.

Several hours later, police found six bodies - all decapitated.

Three other villagers survived the attack with deep wounds to the throat and are now receiving treatment in hospital.

A search is under way for two others who are missing.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the police believe it was carried out by Muslim militants who are known to be active in the area.

It is the third time Hindu villagers in the area have been targeted since the Indian Government announced a unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir last November.

Ceasefire

Militant groups have denounced the ceasefire as a sham designed to influence international opinion and vowed to continue their campaign against Indian rule.

Nearly a dozen militant groups are fighting Delhi's rule in Jammu and Kashmir where some 30,000 people have died in nearly 12 years of separatist rebellion.

Delhi says Islamabad arms, trains and funds the guerrillas, some of whom are fighting for an independent homeland, while others want a state within Pakistan.

Islamabad says it provides the militants with moral, not material, support and has no control over their movement.

Supporters of the ceasefire argue that it has helped to create a climate of goodwill by which Pakistan reduced the level of its forces in its part of Kashmir.

The two countries have a long-running border dispute over the frontier state, which has sparked two of their three wars in the last five decades.

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See also:

26 Apr 01 | South Asia
Kashmir separatists snub peace offer
23 Apr 01 | South Asia
Bridging the Kashmir divide
15 Apr 01 | South Asia
Kashmir killings as talks begin
10 May 01 | South Asia
Journalists assaulted in Kashmir
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