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Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 09:16 GMT 10:16 UK
Hindu pilgrims killed in Kashmir attack
Srinagar hospital
Many of the injured are now in hospital in Srinagar
At least 13 people have been killed in attacks in Indian-administered Kashmir.

Nine people died and 37 were injured after a camp of Hindu pilgrims at Nunwan, near the resort town of Pahalgam, was attacked by suspected Islamic militants. One of the militants was also killed.

A few hours later, three people died in a gun battle north of Srinagar.

Pilgrims make their way to the Amarnath cave shrine
Many thousands of Hindu pilgrims flock to the cave shrine
The Hindu pilgrims were attacked in the early hours of Tuesday morning, while they were sleeping at a camp on their way to a shrine in the foothills of the Himalayas.

Gunmen threw a grenade and then opened fire on the travellers.

So far, no group has said it carried out the attack, but documents found on the body of a militant killed in the attack suggest he was from a Pakistan-based group.

In a later incident, two suspected militants and an Indian soldier were killed in a gunbattle at Handwara, about 90 kilometres (55 miles) north of Srinagar.

Police say the incident took place when the militants attacked an army post with grenades and automatic weapons.

Nuclear neighbours

These latest attacks are likely to add to the already tense relationship between India and Pakistan, correspondents say.


We were sleeping in a tent when we heard the firing of shots. One of the bullets hit my back

Reshap Kumar, injured victim
India accuses Pakistan of supporting Islamic militants infiltrating into the Indian-ruled part of the disputed region.

Senior Indian cabinet ministers, led by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, are meeting in Delhi to consider the government's reaction.

But already the junior home minister, I D Swamy, has accused Pakistan of being behind the attack, saying "No one has to think twice or doubt about that."

He said Pakistan was aiming to disrupt elections in Kashmir, which are due to start next month.

Attacked while sleeping

The gunmen attacked the pilgrims' camp shortly before dawn, when the victims were still asleep.

Eight people were killed by the militants.

One of the injured, Reshap Kumar, told the French news agency AFP: "We were sleeping in a tent when we heard the firing of shots. One of the bullets hit my back."

Police managed to kill one of the attackers, but the rest escaped in the darkness.

Officials say documents found on his body suggest he was from the Pakistan-based militant group, Lashkar-i-Toiba.

The army has now surrounded the area and is combing nearby hills for other suspects.

Annual pilgrimage

The camp near Pahalgam is the base for an annual month-long pilgrimage of thousands of people to the Amarnath cave shrine, high in the Himalayan mountains.

Hindus believe the cave is the home of Lord Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction, where his image appears in ice during July and August.

Hindu pilgrims escorted by police
The Amarnath pilgrimage takes place every year in July and August
Last month, two people were killed in a grenade attack on pilgrims returning from the shrine, despite heavy security along the 350km-long route of the pilgrimage from Jammu up to the temple.

BBC correspondent in Srinagar Altaf Hussein says the authorities had warned early on that another attack could not be ruled out.

But they did not expect such a major incident to happen at Nunwan, he says.

In the past, such attacks have failed to deter the pilgrims from visiting the shrine.

At least 13 people were killed when suspected militants attacked the pilgrimage last year, and two years ago 30 pilgrims were killed on their way to the shrine.

More than 90,000 pilgrims from different parts of India have registered themselves for the pilgrimage this year.

Pervez Dewan, a top state administrator, said the pilgrimage would continue despite the attack.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Jill McGivering
"Thousands of pilgrims make this journey every year"
Click here fror background reports and analysis

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See also:

30 Jul 02 | South Asia
18 Jul 02 | South Asia
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