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India, Pakistan Discuss Security Issues
Sonja Pace
New Delhi
23 Jul 2003, 11:51 UTC

India's defense minister has held talks with senior military officials in Indian-controlled Kashmir to discuss security, in light of two days of violence. His visit comes after suspected Islamic militants launched separate attacks against an Indian army camp and Hindu pilgrims, killing 15 people, including a senior military officer.

Defense Minister George Fernandes went to Indian-controlled Kashmir for a first-hand assessment of the security situation and the events of the previous two days.

His visit comes after suspected Muslim militants attacked the Tanda army camp, killing seven Indian soldiers. Two attackers were killed in the ensuing firefight. Hours later, a third assailant threw grenades at senior military officers who had come to inspect the site. A brigadier general was killed and three other officers were injured.

Indian media are reporting that the attack on the Tanda camp caught the military off guard, and proved there was a major lapse in security. Mr. Fernandes denied such claims.

Mr. Fernandes blamed the Pakistan-based Muslim separatist group, Laskhar-e-Taiba, for the violence.

India's official news agency says it received a fax from a group called the "Al Shuhda Brigade" claiming responsibility for the attack on the camp. However, the faction is believed to be part of the Laskhar-e-Taiba.

India has repeatedly accused Pakistan of supporting separatist violence in Kashmir; a charge Pakistan denies.

Late Monday, suspected Islamic militants attacked a group of pilgrims on their way to a Hindu shrine outside the town of Katra, some 60 kilometers from the Indian-Kashmir winter capital of Jammu. Seven pilgrims were killed in the grenade attack and over two dozen injured.

No group has claimed responsibility for that attack.

Separatist violence has dropped off since India and Pakistan agreed several months ago to resume a dialogue to resolve their differences over the disputed Kashmir region. Defense Minister Fernandes said these latest attacks would not be allowed to derail the peace initiative.

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