- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2002

JAMMU, India Attackers raided a remote village in Indian-controlled Kashmir yesterday, killing eight children and four other civilians.

State Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah blamed the attack on a police deserter who conspired with local Islamic militants to avenge a family dispute, the Press Trust of India reported.

Mr. Abdullah said police have arrested three out of four suspects, but gave no other details, the agency reported.

Police had said they suspect a Pakistan-based Islamic militant group in the deadliest attack since Pakistan clamped down on extremists.

Two women and a man also were wounded when the attackers surrounded Salwa village in the Punch district, about 135 miles northwest of Jammu, the winter capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state, said state police chief Ashok Suri.

The attackers forced their way into the house of villager Zakir Hussain, a Muslim, and started firing, Chief Suri said.

The eight dead children ranged in age from 6 months to 12 years. Officials said two men and two women were killed, including Mr. Hussain's wife, who was pregnant.

State Home Minister Khalid Najib said authorities were investigating whether Mr. Hussain's brother, who had worked with police but later joined the militants, could be responsible for the killings.

In another incident yesterday, police said two militants were killed in an encounter with the Indian army in Chamalvas, 110 miles north of Jammu. Both were identified as top activists of the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed. Five army personnel were injured, two critically, police said.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Mukhtiar Singh said a top commander of another militant group, Hezb-ul-Mujahideeni, was killed Sunday night in a gun battle with an army patrol in Jammu,

Three other militants were killed yesterday in separate incidents, Col. Singh said.

Pakistan's government started a crackdown a week ago on Islamic militants based in its territory, and banned several of the groups that are fighting in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir to win independence or merger with Pakistan, including Jaish-e-Mohammed.

None of the dozen militant groups operating in Jammu-Kashmir claimed responsibility for the Salwa attack. The militants say they never target civilians. However, most of the tens of thousands of people killed in the 12-year insurgency have been Muslim civilians.

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