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Tuesday, 16 October, 2001, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
India launches Kashmir attack
Indian artillery
The Indians say they attacked 11 positions
India has attacked at least 11 Pakistani positions along the Line of Control which separates the two sides in the disputed territory of Kashmir.

A Pakistani spokesman said that one woman had been killed and 25 other civilians wounded in the attacks on Monday, and called on India to put a stop to "state-sponsored terrorism".

It is very important that India and Pakistan stand down during activities in Afghanistan or, for that matter, forever

US President George W Bush
In Delhi, defence officials denied the casualties, saying their gunmen had killed 11 Islamic guerrillas.

The attacks, which broke weeks of relative peace along the border, came at the start of a trip by US Secretary of State Colin Powell to shore up support in Pakistan, and in India, for the war on terrorism.

Washington had hoped that conflict in Kashmir would be averted while it carries out strikes on Afghanistan, fearing that regional instability could have serious implications for the campaign.

"Pro-active approach"

A senior Indian officer, Brigadier PC Das, said the army had launched a heavy artillery attack on posts in the Akhnoor and Mendhar sectors. The Pakistani side returned the fire.

Brigadier Das said the operation - named "Punitive Action" - was part of what he called India's pro-active approach to curbing militancy in Indian-administered Kashmir.

India says that both areas are used by Pakistan to help militants cross over into the Indian-held territory.

But Pakistani spokesman Major General Rashid Qureshi said the firing was unprovoked and unjustified.

"It's high time the world and the United States declares India a state which sponsors terrorism," he said. "The firing was totally unjustified and they were clearly trying to kill civilians."

Correspondents say that a difficult balancing act lies ahead for Mr Powell, who must keep both countries behind the US as it pressed ahead with its campaign.

He raised the issue of restraint in Kashmir during a meeting with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday, and is expected to do the same when he meets the Indian Prime Minister Atal Bahiri Vajpayee on Wednesday in Delhi.

The support of Pakistan, which neighbours Afghanistan, is considered particularly crucial for US operations. It has given the US access to its airspace and intelligence, as well as offering some logistical support.

US concern

President George W Bush has already urged restraint upon Islamabad and Delhi.

"It is very important that India and Pakistan stand down during activities in Afghanistan, or for that matter, forever," he said in Washington.

"We are mindful that activities around Kashmir could create issues in that part of the region, particularly as we are conducting our operations in Afghanistan."

The Indian action comes amid growing signs that Delhi is keen to use the current situation to press home its concerns about militant groups operating in Kashmir.

The territory has been at the centre of two wars between India and Pakistan since 1947.

The BBC's Jon Leyne
"America has no aims for mediation in Kashmir- they just want to keep things quiet"
The BBC's Susannah Price
"The two armies have been routinely fighting eachother for years"
Rashid Qureshi, Pakistani military spokesman
responds to India's attacks on Kashmir
See also:

03 Oct 01 | South Asia
Kashmir caught in war on terror
11 Oct 01 | South Asia
Tensions rise over Kashmir
09 Oct 01 | South Asia
Pakistan changes direction
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