- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2003

NEW DELHI, March 23 (UPI) — Suspected Islamic rebels have shot dead at least 24 Hindus in a bloody midnight raid on a village in Kashmir.

Police sources Monday said more than a dozen rebels dressed in army uniforms raided Nandimarg village and dragged residents from their beds and lined them up before firing on them with automatic weapons. The victims included 12 men, 10 women and two children.

At least 30 Hindus were wounded in the bloodiest attack on Hindus in Kashmir in recent years. The injured have been rushed to a hospital where at least six people are in critical condition with multiple bullet wounds.

The assailants managed to escape into the darkness and troops are combing the hilly terrain to track them down.

No rebel group has claimed responsibility for the Monday raid.

More than 140 Hindus were killed in 1999 in separate incidents across Kashmir, the site of a 14-year-old separatist Islamic uprising.

Hundreds of thousands of Hindus have fled the Kashmir valley in the past eight years fearing such attacks by rebels who are fighting for an independent Kashmir, predominantly Hindu India's only Muslim majority state.

The attack came as the newly elected government in Kashmir was making efforts to bring back Hindus to the state. Most Kashmiri Hindus live in New Delhi as refugees on federal government welfare.

Human-rights groups have criticized both the government and the separatist groups for the violence in Kashmir that has claimed more than 37,000 lives, nearly half of them civilians.

Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir and have fought two wars over the Himalayan region. India accuses Pakistan of training and financing the militant groups. Islamabad denies the charge, acknowledging only moral support to the separatists.

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