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Sunday, 14 July, 2002, 21:58 GMT 22:58 UK
Kashmir killings condemned
Mourning relatives of people killed in the attack in Qasim Nagar
Many women and children were among the victims
There has been widespread condemnation of Saturday's attack by armed gunmen on a shanty town in Kashmir, which left at least 27 civilians dead and more than 30 injured.

Indian Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani described the massacre as "terrorism in its most naked form".

"The objective of the terrorists was amply clear because they killed people and killed without any discrimination," he said.

Troops in Qasim Nagar, near Jammu
Troops have been patrolling the area since the attack
India has blamed Pakistan for the killings. Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha said it was clear the attack was carried out "with the inspiration of Pakistan".

But Pakistan's Foreign Ministry, in its own denunciation of the attack, said it appeared to be aimed at increasing tension in the region.

International leaders have also condemned the killings.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell described the massacre as the work of "terrorist thugs" seeking to inflame tensions between India and Pakistan, while British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said he was "horrified by this attack on innocent civilians".

Both men are due to visit the region in a few days' time as part of the continuing diplomatic effort to ease tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

Civilians targeted

Eyewitnesses said up to eight militants disguised as Hindu holy men entered the Qasim Nagar slum area late on Saturday, first throwing grenades and then opening fire.

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Many of the residents were watching television at the time - India was playing cricket against England.

Most of the victims were women and children in this predominantly Hindu community on the outskirts of Jammu in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Troops have launched a massive hunt for the gunmen, who are thought to have fled into nearby forests.

It was the worst such attack since Islamic militants raided a military base also near Jammu on 14 May, killing 34 people - an incident which brought India to the brink of war with Pakistan.

Officials in Indian-administered Kashmir said they suspected two Pakistan-based militant groups - the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad - as being behind the attack.

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

Kashmir's main separatist alliance said the attack was "an act of cowardice".

Javed Mir, acting chairman of the pro-independence Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), said it was "a clear act of terrorism" and "we condemn terrorism in all its forms".

The JKLF is an important member of the separatist alliance, the All Party Hurriyat Conference.

On-going tension

The territorial dispute over Kashmir is at the heart of five decades of hostility between India and Pakistan, which have fought two wars over the territory.

More than a million Indian and Pakistani soldiers are currently massed along their frontier.

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.

Tension in Kashmir is expected to be further heightened when tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims trek to a cave shrine called Amarnath on 22 July.

The BBC's Jill McGivering
"India's patience is again being dangerously tested"
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