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Sunday, 14 July, 2002, 04:55 GMT 05:55 UK
Outrage as 27 killed in Kashmir
Victims of the attack
The injured were rushed to a local hospital
The British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has condemned an attack by suspected Muslim militants near Jammu in Indian-administered Kashmir, which killed at least 27 people and injured 30 others.

Mr Straw is due in India in a few days' time as part of the continuing diplomatic effort to ease tensions between India and Pakistan.

"I'm horrified by this attack on innocent civilians," Mr Straw said.

"Terrorism - be it in Jammu, Kashmir or anywhere else - only serves to renew the determination of the free world to fight this evil."

Mr Straw was one of the first to respond to the attack, which happened late on Saturday night. There is still no official response from the Indian Government.

Five of my family members were killed

Victims' relative
Eyewitnesses said a small group of armed men disguised as Hindu holy men entered the Qasim Nagar slum area outside Jammu, first throwing grenades and then opening fire.

It is not yet known who carried out the attack, but local police say they suspect a pro-Pakistan militant group.

This is the worst attack since an army camp near Jammu was targeted in May, leaving more than 30 people dead.

After that attack, India and Pakistan came close to war, and tensions were only defused after international intervention.

Grenades thrown

Security forces engaged the militants in a lengthy gun battle - but there are suggestions the gunmen may have managed to escape.

Kashmir militant attacks:

1 October 2001:
38 killed in attack on the Kashmir assembly in Srinagar
13 December 2001:
14 killed in attack on the Indian parliament building in Delhi
14 May 2002:
More than 30 killed in attack on an Indian army camp in Kashmir
21 May 2002:
Moderate Kashmiri politician Abdul Ghani Lone shot dead

The number of dead rose steadily as more bodies were recovered.

"Our lot is very bad. Five of my family members were killed," one man was heard to say.

Most of the dead are thought to be Hindu women and children.

A senior police official in Jammu, Ashok Suri, said he suspected the attack had been carried out by the militant Lashkar-e-Toiba group.

Militant groups are fighting to end Indian rule in Kashmir, and Delhi says they are actively supported by Pakistan.

Pakistan has pledged to curb the infiltration of militants from its territory, but India says it is still not doing enough.

Infiltration fears

Many in India and the international community had feared another act of violence, says the BBC's correspondent Jill McGivering.

The loss of human life is bad enough, but the attack also jeopardises the whole international effort to keep India and Pakistan from war, our correspondent says.

On Friday, the United States said there had been a significant decline in infiltration by Pakistani-backed militants into Indian-administered Kashmir.

However, the recently-appointed Indian Foreign Minister, Yashwant Sinha, has said that Pakistan had reneged on its promise to curb infiltration.

Although both India and Pakistan have stepped back from the brink, they still have huge numbers of troops massed along their common border.

The BBC's Jill McGivering
"The death toll is still rising"
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See also:

14 Jul 02 | South Asia
13 Jul 02 | South Asia
21 Jun 02 | South Asia
06 Jun 02 | South Asia
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