India holds crisis meeting after 27 killed in Kashmir
The Indian prime minister has called an emergency meeting of his security cabinet after suspected Islamic militants killed 27 civilians - mostly women - in Kashmir.
Pakistan has been accused of being complicit in the attack but Pakistani authorities have condemned it as a "terrorist act".
The militants were disguised as Hindu holy men when they attacked a mainly-Hindu shantytown in southern Kashmir. Local politicians have laid the blame for the bloodshed at Pakistan's door.
An Indian woman shouts
at police officers after
the attack. Photo: Reuters
A massacre in southern Kashmir on May 14th by Islamic militants New Delhi claims were sponsored by Islamabad brought the nuclear-ready rivals to the brink of war - averted only after a massive diplomatic effort by the international community.
Among the dead in last night's attack on the Qasim Nagar slum area on the outskirts Jammu, Indian Kashmir's southern winter capital, were 13 women and a three-year-old child, a police spokesman said.
At least 35 people were wounded, with nine still in critical condition, said doctors at the government Medical College in Jammu.
Police and witnesses said between three and five militants attacked Qasim Nagar shantytown, which houses predominantly Hindu labourers from the eastern states of Bihar and Orissa.
Witnesses said the attackers invaded two small temples where they continued firing before making off into the nearby Bathindi forests.
A manhunt continued through the night, with residents reporting the sound of exploding grenades and the crackle of automatic gunfire in the forests until early morning.
As day broke, Kashmir governor Mr G.C. Saxena accompanied by senior police officials visited the scene of the attack.
They found blood stains in the narrow alleys of the shantytown, with large groups of women wailing over the dead.
Police held a high-level meeting at which it was decided that all police posts in the area would be reinforced and that further security force members would be drafted in to help in the search for the attackers.
Indian Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, who is also the home minister, and Kashmir's chief minister Mr Farooq Abdullah were to visit the area later today.
Mr Abdullah has blamed Pakistan-sponsored militant groups for the attack.
"So long as the great powers, the United States and the rest, do not understand that the basis of terrorism lies in Pakistan, this kind of violence will continue," he told reporters shortly after his arrival from London, where he had been on a private visit.
Police blamed the attack on the Pakistan-based group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is accused by India of attacking its national parliament on December 13th in which 14 people were killed.
Pakistan later condemned the killing as a "terrorist" act aimed at escalating tensions in the region.
"The government of Pakistan condemns the killing of a number of civilians and injuries to many others in a terrorist attack in the outskirts of Jammu on Saturday," a foreign office statement said.
"The motivation behind the attack seems to be to enhance tension in the region."
The statement called upon the Indian government "to end its repression in Jammu and Kashmir and to adopt the path of reason, justice and dialogue to resolve the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people."