July 30, 2005

Firefight in Kashmir’s main city enters second day

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) - Two soldiers were dead and 20
people, including seven journalists, were wounded as a
firefight between Muslim militants and Indian troops in
Kashmir's main city entered its second day on Saturday.

An unspecified number of militants were holed up in two
buildings in the heart of Srinagar after they raided the city's
main business center on Friday afternoon, sparking a fierce
battle with troops.

"We are planning to storm," K. Srinivasan, a senior
security official, told Reuters. "There was intermittent
exchange of fire throughout the night."

Witnesses said close to one km (0.6 mile) radius had been
cordoned off by hundreds of troops, who were backed by armored
jeeps and trucks mounted with machine guns.

Television cameramen and photographers who had rushed to
cover Friday's firefight got caught in the crossfire. Seven
were hurt, including a cameraman who was in a critical
condition after being shot in the stomach.

In Srinagar, streets were quieter than usual as many people
stayed indoors to keep out of the way.

Two Islamic groups fighting New Delhi's authority over
Kashmir, Al-Mansuriyan and Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen, claimed
responsibility for the raid.

New Delhi has said that despite a peace process with
nuclear rival Pakistan, Islamabad allows Muslim militants to
infiltrate into Indian Kashmir from the Pakistani side of the
bitterly disputed Himalayan region.

Officials say there has been a surge in incursion attempts
across the military ceasefire line that divides Kashmir in
recent weeks as snow melts in high mountain passes.

The chief of Kashmir's ruling People's Democratic Party
said separatist guerrillas were launching dramatic attacks to
derail the peace process.

"We will not let this happen," Mehbooba Mufti told

On Friday, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf tried to
ease Indian concerns over reports that militant camps were
re-opening on his country's side of the line, saying the
situation was "on the mend."

More than 45,000 people have been killed in the revolt in
mainly Hindu India's only Muslim-majority state of Jammu and