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The BBC''s Mike Wooldridge
"The route the militants took could be traced in bloodstains"
 real 28k

The BBC's Peter Biles
"The pilgrimage route was heavily guarded but to no avail"
 real 56k

Wednesday, 2 August, 2000, 14:21 GMT 15:21 UK
Kashmir spirals into violence
Sister of Farooq Ahmad, shot on road to Amarnath
A woman weeps for her injured brother
A wave of violence which has swept through Indian-administered Kashmir is now known to have claimed at least 90 lives.

Many of the dead were Hindu pilgrims or labourers who were massacred by suspected Muslim militants in at least five villages across the province.

The violence began only hours after an alliance of militant separatist groups publicly rejected the idea of joining a ceasefire called by the largest group, Hizbul Mujahideen.

Map of massacre locations
The Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, accused militant groups backed or protected by Pakistan of launching the attacks in a bid to derail recent peace efforts.

This has been denied by Pakistan's military leader, General Pervez Musharraf, who said Delhi always blamed its neighbour for such incidents.

"We certainly condemn the killings. But Pakistan has nothing to do with it," the general said in a live webcast on BBC News Online.

Mr Vajpayee told parliament in Delhi his government was determined to pursue the peace process and would not be cowed by terrorism.

He said innocent people were dying.

"It is clear that... after the Hizbul Mujahideen's ceasefire call and moves for peace talks, either groups which enjoy Pakistan's protection or militant groups that take instructions from Pakistan have decided to end the peace and attack and kill innocent people," he said.

A soldier patrols the deserted streets of Jammu
A soldier patrols the deserted streets of Jammu
"The path we are following in Jammu and Kashmir is one of peace and we will not leave it.

"Whatever difficulties we encounter, we will face. A message should go from this house that we will not be cowed down by terrorism."

The Hizbul Mujahideen militants have also indicated that they will not allow the latest killings to derail peace attempts.

'Renegade elements'

The leader of the opposition Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi, called the killings an outrageous act.

She said although her party welcomed the peace process initiated by the government, they should not lower their guard as they seemed to have done.

Pakistan has suggested that "renegade" Indian soldiers could have been behind the attacks, in an attempt to discredit the Kashmiri militants.

Police clean up after earlier murder
The region has seen a succession of killings
"Initial reports do not rule out the possibility of killings resulting from firing by the Indian forces," the Foreign Office said in a statement.

"On previous occasions terrorist acts aimed at civilians have been carried out by renegade elements at the behest of the Indian security forces, to malign the Kashmiri freedom struggle internationally."

The new wave of violence began on Tuesday, when around 30 people died and dozens were injured at Pahalgam, along the route of pilgrimage to the Hindu cave shrine of Amarnath.

Later the same day, 19 Hindu labourers were massacred at a brick kiln in Mir Bazar, in Anantnag district south of the capital, Srinagar.

Indefinite curfew

Seven others were killed in a separate attack in a nearby village.

Another massacre of Hindus was reported on Wednesday. At least 29 people were shot dead in the Doda region of southern Kashmir on Wednesday morning.

And in Baramullah to the north of Srinagar, a former militant and six members of his family were shot dead by a group of gunmen.

An indefinite curfew has been imposed in the Hindu majority city of Jammu, as a precautionary measure.

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See also:

02 Aug 00 | South Asia
'Peace opportunity' for Kashmir
28 Jul 00 | South Asia
India appeals to militants
26 Jul 00 | South Asia
Kashmir truce condemned
24 Jul 00 | South Asia
Kashmir militants offer ceasefire
02 Aug 00 | South Asia
Former diplomats urge peace
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