- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 25, 2003

NEW DELHI, March 25 (UPI) — India blamed Pakistan for the massacre of 24 Hindus killed by Islamic rebels in Kashmir.

India's Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishan Advani on Tuesday visited the site, one day after the attack that left 12 men, 10 women and two infants dead at Nandimarg village in Indian-administered Kashmir.

"This is an act of our neighbor and violence in the state is continuing only because of them," Advani said during his Kashmir visit. He described the killings as a cold-blooded murder of innocent people.

Police says that at least a dozen rebels dressed in army uniforms dragged villagers from their beds, lined them and then shot with automatic weapons from point-blank range.

At least 30 Hindus were injured in the raid.

Hundreds of thousands of Hindus have fled the Kashmir valley in the last eight years fearing attacks from Islamic rebels who are fighting for independence of Kashmir, which is the only Muslim majority state of otherwise predominantly Hindu India.

No rebels group has claimed responsibility for the Monday raid.

India has often accused Pakistan of arming and financing the militants. Pakistan says it only provides ideological support to Islamic "freedom fighters."

New Delhi says that armed rebels are pushed into Kashmir through its border with Pakistan. Islamabad denies the charge.

More than a dozen odd Islamic rebels groups are fighting a 14-year-old insurgency seeking independence of Kashmir, which is the only Muslim majority state of otherwise predominantly Hindu India.

More than 37,000 people, nearly half of them civilians, have been killed in the conflict Rebels put the toll at 80,000.

India has refused to hold bilateral talks with Pakistan over Kashmir saying Islamabad must first end support tot hose who attack in Kashmir before any dialogue.

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