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Monday, 25 November, 2002, 08:54 GMT
Kashmir temples hit by gunbattles
An injured Indian policeman is carried by rescuers
At least 50 people were injured in the siege
A series of gunbattles around Hindu temples in Indian-administered Kashmir, has left 14 people dead.

Major attacks this year
30 March: 10 killed in Raghunath Temple attack
34 killed in attack on army camp in Jammu
27 Hindu labourers killed in a shantytown near Jammu
Security forces secured the Shiv temple in the state's winter capital, Jammu, shooting dead a militant.

Just hours earlier, they ended a siege at the Raghunath Temple, which began on Sunday night.

Police have blamed the attack, the second on the temple this year, on the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba militant group.

Last week, Pakistan released the founder of the outlawed group, leading to strong protests from India.

Earlier this year, the two nuclear neighbours came close to war over Kashmir, following continued separatist violence in the disputed region.

Temple siege

Three militants have now died since Sunday's storming of the Raghunath Temple complex, which sparked an exchange of fire with police and soldiers which went on for several hours.

Worshippers fled the temple in panic amid the shooting and police said at least 50 people were injured, including two priests.

The security forces finally cornered and shot dead two militants - one of whom had fled to the nearby Panchvaktar temple.

Soon after dawn on Monday security forces came under fire from the nearby Shiv temple.

The BBC's Adam Mynott in Delhi says this latest attack will test the resolve of the new state government, which has promised to tackle militancy in the troubled state of Jammu-Kashmir.

Worshippers trapped


This is a result of giving a free hand to terrorists and the policies of appeasement of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's government

General Secretary Mukhtar, BJP party

Hundreds of Hindu pilgrims were inside the temple at the time of the attack.

Indian television showed pictures of terrified worshippers fleeing for safety.

This is not the first time the famous temple has been targeted. At least 10 people were killed and 15 others injured when militants attacked it in March.

The temple is visited by hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims from across the country every year.

The temple, dedicated to the supreme Hindu deity Rama, was built in 1860 by the Hindu king of Kashmir, Ranbir Singh.

Blame

"Temples are soft targets. The terrorists who come from Pakistan want to spread panic and provoke religious violence," said Junior Federal Minister ID Swami.

Escaping Hindu devotees
Many of the worshippers fled for safety
But India's ruling Hindu nationalist BJP party, which is in opposition in the Kashmir legislature, also blamed the latest policies of the state's newly-elected government for the rising militant-led attacks in the Himalayan territory.

"This is a result of giving a free hand to terrorists and the policies of appeasement of Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed's government," BJP General Secretary Mukhtar told the French AFP news agency.

The temple attack comes just a day after 12 people, including six soldiers, were killed when a bus hit a landmine in the troubled region.

Separatist rebels are suspected of having triggered the device.

Violence has returned to Kashmir after a short lull following the appointment of reformist Mufti Mohammed Sayeed as state leader on 2 November.

He has promised to combat the militants and has pledged to push ahead with a planned package of reforms for the troubled region.

A number of Islamic militant groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India since 1989.

So far, more than 61,000 people have been killed in the troubles.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Adam Mynott in Delhi
"Some were carried out of the temple complex in the middle of the night"
Click here fror background reports and analysis

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See also:

23 Nov 02 | South Asia
08 Apr 02 | South Asia
31 Mar 02 | South Asia
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