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Friday, 18 August, 2000, 15:26 GMT 16:26 UK
Fresh Kashmir peace proposal
Hurriyat meeting
The plan envisages the Hurriyat talking to both parties
A Kashmiri separatist leader has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan as part of a peace effort in the troubled region.

Abdul Ghani Bhat, who heads an alliance of Kashmiri separatists, told the BBC that his party could facilitate talks between India and Pakistan.

India has refused to talk to Pakistan because it says Islamabad support's violence in Kashmir - a charge which has been consistently denied.

Kashmir patrol
Security has been tight
The offer came as six Hindu villagers were killed and six injured by suspected Muslim militants in overnight violence in Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr Bhat's All Party Hurriyat [Freedom] Conference is an umbrella body of nearly 30 groups including political and religious organisations.

He said the Hurriyat's seven-member executive committee could split into two groups - each of which could hold separate talks with Delhi and Islamabad.

This, he suggested, could work around India's opposition to sitting across Pakistan at the negotiating table.

He added, however, that the proposal was awaiting ratification by the Hurriyat executive committee.

Attack

Protesters have set alight a district official's car following the latest killing.

The attack occurred on Thursday evening in a village in Rajouri district, about 160km (100 miles) west of Jammu.

Kotdhara village is located in Rajouri district
A police official said at least eight gunmen entered the village, which is home to about 30 Hindu families, and opened fire with automatic weapons.

Four of those killed were members of the village defence committee, set up by the villagers to defend themselves.

Jammu's Inspector General of Police, RV Raju, told the Reuters news agency that each house in the village had been provided with a weapon, but the villagers did not retaliate.

"No one used his weapon to beat away the militants when the latter struck the village," he said.

An indefinite curfew was imposed in the area to prevent potential revenge attacks against Muslims.

Security personnel were out on the streets and a search operation got underway to arrest the killers.

Militant denial

A spokesman in Pakistan for the leading separatist group Hizbul Mujahideen denied that any militant group was involved in the attack.

The spokesman, Salim Hashmi, blamed the Indian security forces for the incident.

In the past week there has been an upsurge in violence in Kashmir after Hizbul Mujahideen called off a ceasefire declared on 24 July.

It ended a nascent peace process which had raised hopes of an end to the long-running conflict.

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See also:

17 Aug 00 | South Asia
Border clash in Kashmir
16 Aug 00 | South Asia
Kashmir flares up again
08 Aug 00 | South Asia
Kashmir ceasefire called off
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