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Tuesday, 6 August, 2002, 15:50 GMT 16:50 UK
Pakistan blamed over Kashmir attack
Indian Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir State, Farooq Abdullah
Senior officials visited the wounded in hospital
Indian government officials have accused a militant group based in Pakistan of killing nine Hindu pilgrims in Kashmir on Tuesday morning.

Another 37 people were injured in the attack, when gunmen opened fire on a camp where the pilgrims were staying, near the resort town of Pahalgam. One of the militants was also killed.

Indian soldier at the camp
The militants fired at the camp while the pilgrims were sleeping
India's Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani said a group called al-Mansoorian - which he alleged was a new name for the banned Pakistan-based extremist group Lashkar-e-Toiba - had admitted to the attack.

Lashkar-e-Toiba has condemned the killings and denied any involvement.

Pakistan's Government was quick to condemn the incident as a "terrorist attack", and angrily rejected claims it was implicated in the killings.

India has frequently accused Pakistan of supporting Islamic militants infiltrating into Indian-ruled Kashmir - a charge Pakistan vehemently denies.

Correspondents say this attack is likely to put further strain on an already tense relationship between the two neighbours.

Search for suspects

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.

Despite heavy security, gunmen threw a grenade and then opened fire on the travellers.

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

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

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

Reshap Kumar, pilgrim

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

Junior Home Minister ID Swamy accused Pakistan of being behind the killings, saying: "No one has to think twice or doubt about that."

But a statement from Pakistan's Foreign Office said the government "rejects with contempt the remarks made by Mr Swami... implicating Pakistan in the attack."

In a continuation of the violence, two suspected militants and an Indian soldier were killed in a gun battle 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.

In shock

The BBC's Jill McGivering says the town of Pahalgam was in shock this morning.

The narrow road was choked with pilgrims rushing away from the scene, our correspondent says.

The clinic, just a few rooms, was overwhelmed by the injured, and the floor littered with bloodstained bandages.

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

"When the firing stopped, I came out of the tent and people were lying in pools of blood everywhere," said another pilgrim, Rakesh Kumar.

The camp near Pahalgam is the last staging post 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.

The site has previously been a target for militant attacks, and the 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 Pahalgam, he says.

ID Swami, Indian Deputy Home Minister
"Pakistan has been dabbling in double speak"
Major-General Rashid Qureshi, Pakistan spokesman
"We have condemned every act of violence and terrorism against civilians"
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