11 Militants, 3 Indian Soldiers Die in Attacks Across Kashmir
Eleven Muslim rebels and three Indian soldiers were killed Saturday in scattered attacks in the Kashmir region, officials said.
In one attack, two soldiers were killed and one was injured when suspected militants threw a grenade in Srinagar, the summer capital of India’s Jammu and Kashmir state, shortly after Home Minister Shivraj Patil held a news conference there at the start of a three-day visit.
The visit is Patil’s first trip to India’s only Muslim-majority state since a new administration, led by the Congress Party, took power in India in May. But a meeting between him and leaders of Kashmir’s separatist movement appeared unlikely.
“We have not received any invitation from Mr. Patil for a meeting,” said Mirwaiz Omar Farooq, leader of the moderate faction of the All Party Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of separatist groups.
“But we have made it clear that talks will only resume if Hurriyat leaders are allowed to visit Pakistan first,” he said. “There is also a separatist leadership in Pakistan which needs to be consulted before we resume talks.”
Patil said he was willing to talk to anyone “if bloodshed stops, but a dialogue requires two groups.”
He said he would have no objection to separatist leaders visiting Pakistan -- but most of them either have no passports or have had their passports confiscated by India.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and separatists in the Indian-held portion have been fighting for more than 15 years for independence or merger with Pakistan.
On Saturday, 10 militants were killed in three clashes in the western districts of Poonch and Baramulla, some while trying to cross from Pakistan-held Kashmir, security forces said.
A rebel and a soldier were also killed when militants staged a morning attack on a military camp in the town of Sopore, north of Srinagar.