- The Washington Times - Monday, July 15, 2002

JAMMU, India India blamed Pakistan yesterday for an attack by suspected Islamic guerrillas on a crowded slum in Jammu-Kashmir state that killed at least 27 Hindus and threatened to increase hostilities between the bitter rivals.
Pakistan, which India accuses of harboring and backing the militants, also denounced Saturday's attack, saying it seemed designed to raise tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
The top panel on security from India's Cabinet met to discuss how to respond. Afterward, Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani traveled to the massacre site and was to report back to the prime minister.
"It is clear that all this is being carried out with the inspiration of Pakistan. It was a gruesome attack," Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha told private Aaj Tak television.
The attack comes ahead of a visit by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to both capitals this month in a bid to ease tensions.
On Saturday, as many as eight suspected Islamic militants walked into the Qasimnagar slum on the outskirts of Jammu, winter capital of Jammu-Kashmir, and threw three or four grenades before opening fire, witnesses told police.
Doctors said two more persons died yesterday, bringing the death toll in the attack to 27. Dozens more were injured, 10 critically.
The army was searching the area's forests for the assailants and had cordoned off parts of the shantytown and nearby hills, officials said.
It was the deadliest assault in disputed Kashmir since a May 14 strike by Islamic militants against a military base near Jammu that killed 34 persons. That attack had put India on a war footing with neighboring Pakistan.
More than 1 million Indian and Pakistani soldiers are still massed along their frontier.
Tensions between the neighbors had fallen in recent weeks after Pakistan promised to stop the infiltration of Islamic militants from its territory into India-controlled Kashmir.
Saturday's attack, however, seems sure to reignite tensions.
India's junior interior minister, I.D. Swamy, also linked the guerrillas to Pakistan.
"Pakistan arms them, helps them and sends them. We believe it is Lashkar-e-Tayyaba that carried out yesterday's attack," he said, referring to the most feared of more than a dozen Pakistan-based Islamic groups fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or merger with mostly Muslim Pakistan.
"Elections are about to happen, and militants' groups are trying to create terror," Mr. Swamy said.
The Islamic militants are fighting for independence for India-controlled Kashmir or to merge it with mainly Muslim Pakistan. Kashmir is India's only Muslim majority region. The nations have fought two wars over divided Kashmir, which both claim in its entirety.

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