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Saturday, 9 February, 2002, 10:40 GMT
Two dead in Kashmir mosque siege
Indian soldiers
Indian forces have faced several mosque sieges recently
Two militants have been killed in a mosque siege in Indian-administered Kashmir, according to the Indian security forces.

Lots of sincere efforts were made with the help of locals including the imam of the mosque for persuading them to surrender - but all in vain

Indian official statement
A senior police official said they had died after what he called "a fierce exchange of fire".

The slain militants are said by the Indian authorities to be Pakistani nationals and members of the Jaish-e-Mohammad group, which has recently been banned by the US and Pakistan.

However, the BBC's Altaf Hussein in Srinagar says there has been no word from Jaish-e-Mohammad itself about the incident.

Building damage

Police said originally they thought there were three militants in the mosque.

But only two were discovered after the shoot-out.

The mosque, in the Tutigund area of Kupwara district, suffered extensive damage.

"A portion of it housing the rest rooms has been blown out and flattened," a police official said.

He also said there were bullet holes in all the walls.

No surrender

Indian army and paramilitaries launched their operation against the militants late on Friday night after failing to persuade them to surrender.

Earlier on Friday, they had sent some local residents into the mosque to talk to the militants.

But they refused to lay down their weapons and instead exchanged fire with security forces, according to the police.

This is the third such incidents in Kashmir so far this year.

However, two militants who were also holed up inside a mosque near the northern town of Sopore last week were persuaded by their parents to surrender.

India says Pakistan sponsors militant attacks in Kashmir, and has demanded tougher action from the Pakistani authorities to rein them in.

Pakistan says it only offers diplomatic and moral support, and has accused India of "state terrorism" in Kashmir.

The BBC's Altaf Hussain
"The slain militants are said to be Pakistani nationals"
See also:

07 Feb 02 | South Asia
Vajpayee hits back at Pakistan
22 Dec 01 | South Asia
Kashmir killings prompt security review
11 Feb 02 | South Asia
Three killed 'in Pakistani shelling'
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