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Monday, 4 March, 2002, 18:21 GMT
Kashmiri militant casualties climb sharply
Indian troops carry body of militant killed in action
Security forces have stepped up their offensive
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By Altaf Hussain
BBC correspondent in Srinagar

There has been a sharp increase in the number of militants killed by Indian troops in Indian-administered Kashmir in the past two months, according to figures released by a human rights group.

Kashmiri women grieve the death of a relative
Civilian casualty figures continue to rise

The rise coincides with what is considered to be a perceptible change in Pakistan's policy towards militant activity on its soil.

The figures, released by the Jammu Kashmir Human Rights Front (JKHRF), show that overall more than 430 people have been killed in militancy-related violence in Indian-administered Kashmir since 1 January

JKHRF says the number of casualties is at least 40% more than the comparable figure for the same period last year.

Within that number, the figures also show a dramatic increase in casualties among militants.

Policy shift

Militant casualties reached 270 dead against 31 Indian soldiers: a ratio of around nine militants for every Indian soldier killed in action.

There have been very few major attacks by militants on Indian troops in the past two months.

Border Security Force troops carry a dead body
There have been fewer militant attacks recently

Indian troops have, on the other hand, stepped up their offensive against militants.

These changes coincide with Pakistan's changed policy towards militancy announced by President Pervez Musharraf in January.

The Inspector General of police for Kashmir, K Rajindran, says Pervez Musharraf's speech caused confusion amongst militants who have since gone into hiding.

But he says the real impact of Pakistan's policy will be known only in the coming summer, when the snow melts in the high mountain passes and infiltration becomes easier.

The JKHRF report says Indian security forces have killed 14 people in custody over the past two months.

It also says 36 people have been arrested under the newly promulgated Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance (POTO).

Fresh fighting

Meanwhile, police say eight militants have been killed in fresh exchanges of fire with Indian troops across the state.

A gun battle broke out between security forces and militants at Khwaja Bagh in the northern district of Baramullah Monday afternoon.

The firing was going on when the last reports were received.

See also:

25 Feb 02 | South Asia
India rules out Pakistan talks
19 Feb 02 | South Asia
Kashmir's 'stunted generation'
16 Feb 02 | South Asia
Kashmir strike over civilian deaths
12 Feb 02 | South Asia
Kashmir separatists announce poll move
09 Feb 02 | South Asia
Two dead in Kashmir mosque siege
12 Jan 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Musharraf's gamble
30 Jan 02 | South Asia
'Militants killed' on Kashmir border
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