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Tuesday, 28 August, 2001, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Hindu priests killed in Kashmir
Indian soldiers
There are fears of reprisals after the killings
By Binoo Joshi in Jammu

A curfew has been declared in the town of Poonch in Indian-administered Kashmir following the murder of two Hindu priests by suspected militants late on Monday.

We've recovered both the bodies some metres away from the temple and both of them were beheaded

Senior police official
Police say a group of militants entered a temple dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali near Surankot in the mountainous district of Poonch.

After waking the two priests from sleep, the militants beheaded them.

Commentators say that while the number of Hindus murdered in the Jammu region of Indian-administered Kashmir has increased in recent months, this is the first incident in which Hindu priests have been murdered.

Angry reaction

In another incident in Poonch district, the authorities say separatist militants shot dead five members of a Muslim family early on Tuesday.

Map of Poonch region
An army spokesman said two women and two children were among the victims.

The family had refused to supply food and rations to the militants, according to the army.

They say the killings appeared to be in retaliation.

The news of the killing of the priests sparked an angry reaction from Hindus living in the town of Poonch, who demonstrated on the streets in protest against the killings.

Additional forces have been deployed in the town.

Sources in nearby Rajouri say angry demonstrations have been held there too.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the killings, but police say militants active in the area are behind the incident.

Increased powers

Violence in the Jammu region has been on the increase since the area was declared a "disturbed area" by the Indian Government earlier this month.

In the last 17 days, 35 militants, 20 civilians and 25 security personnel have been killed.

The security forces now have considerable powers at their disposal.

But observers say that the violence might have been averted if an offensive had been launched against the militants earlier.

See also:

04 Aug 01 | South Asia
Shepherds die in Kashmir massacre
23 Aug 01 | South Asia
Hindus die in Kashmir attacks
23 Jul 01 | South Asia
Strike after massacre of Hindus
17 Jul 01 | South Asia
Militants to step up Kashmir attacks
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