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Page last updated at 17:15 GMT, Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Gun and bomb attacks rock Kashmir

An Indian policeman takes cover during firing in Srinagar on January 6, 2010.
Police took cover during an attack in Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir

At least three soldiers were killed and 11 injured in a suicide bombing outside an army barracks in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, police say.

No group has claimed the attack near the town of Rawalakot. It follows a number of recent attacks on Shia Muslims and the security forces.

On the other side of the de facto border dividing Kashmir a policeman was killed in a gun battle in Srinagar.

India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir and have fought two wars over it.

Police in Srinagar say militants threw a grenade and opened fire at police in the city's historic Lal Chowk or Red Square.

At least two gunmen are thought to have taken refuge in a hotel from where they exchanged fire with the security forces.

The sound of gun shots and explosions echoed through the city centre.

Rare attacks

Wednesday's attack on Pakistani troops came at Tarakhal, close to the Line of Control (LoC) which divides Kashmir.

Map

"The bomber detonated the explosives as he saw the soldiers coming out of their barracks," Reuters news agency quoted Javed Iqbal, chief of police in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, as saying.

Nearly all the dead and injured are reported to be soldiers. The wounded were taken to hospitals in Rawalakot, police said.

Pakistani-administered Kashmir has been home to dozens of militant groups fighting Indian rule for nearly two decades, the BBC's M Ilyas Khan in Islamabad says.

The area contains a number of camps of Sunni militants.

Pakistani-administered-Kashmir has been largely free of violence over the years, although recently attacks have been on the rise.

Eight Shia Muslims were killed in a bombing last month.

In November, three would-be suicide bombers blew themselves up in the regional capital, Muzaffarabad, as they were chased by police. The three men did not appear to be Kashmiris, police said.

In June, a suicide bomber killed two soldiers and injured three others in Muzaffarabad.

Wednesday's bombing is the first outside Muzaffarabad and comes a day after Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari visited the area.

It has raised fears the Taliban may be trying to expand their area of operations. More than 500 people have been killed in a wave of attacks in Pakistan since troops launched an assault on militants near the Afghan border in October.

Violence in Indian-administered Kashmir has declined dramatically in recent years.

India and Pakistan declared a ceasefire in 2004 but suspended peace talks after the 2008 Mumbai (Bombay) attacks, which India blamed on Pakistan-based militants.



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