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Saturday, 21 July, 2001, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
Gunbattle halts Kashmir pilgrimage
Soldier guarding Kashmir pilgrims
The pilgrimage sees up to 100,000 trek to the shrine
The authorities in Indian-administered Kashmir say 13 people have been killed and another 15 wounded in an attack by suspected Muslim militants on a Hindu pilgrimage high in the Himalayas.

Indian border police say two suspected Muslim militants exploded land mines and then engaged Indian security forces in a gunbattle at Sheshnag, halfway along the route to the cave-shrine of Amarnath.

Indian soldier with machine gun
Indian security forces have been deployed to protect pilgrims
Six pilgrims, two police and five porters died on the Indian side. One suspected militant was reported to have been killed in the attack.

A militant Muslim group, Al-Umar Mujahideen, said it carried out the attack.

The pilgrimage, which sees up to 100,000 Hindus trekking to the shrine 14,000 feet up in the Himalaya mountains, has been suspended.

Last year, a similar incident resulted in the deaths of more than 20 people, although an official Indian inquiry blamed over-reaction by the police for the majority of the deaths.

This year, thousands of Indian soldiers, police and paramilitary border guards have been deployed along the route to protect the Hindu pilgrims.

The attack is the latest in a series of violent clashes that has seen almost 200 people killed in the first half of July.

Pakistani President General Musharraf
General Musharraf: Kashmir the key to peace
Ten or more militant Muslim groups are fighting Indian rule in Kashmir and Jammu, regions disputed by India and Pakistan.

The military ruler of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, has said there can be no peace between the two countries without a solution to the problem of Kashmir.

India's Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh, replied by restating India's claim to the region.

But he also stressed that the two sides would continue to seek peace.

The BBC's Satish Jacob in Delhi
"Thirteen people were killed a clash between Indian soldiers and separatist militants"
See also:

20 Jul 01 | South Asia
Musharraf: Kashmir must be solved
17 Jul 01 | South Asia
Militants to step up Kashmir attacks
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