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Kashmir attacks 'setback for peace'

Dead pilgrims
Dead bodies of Indian pilgrims are taken from a truck for a morgue in Srinagar  

NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- India has said the deadly attacks in Kashmir on Tuesday prove there can be no hope for peace until Pakistan takes more steps to prevent militant activity in the region.

A External Affairs ministry spokeswoman said Wednesday the attacks justified India's continued vigilance in the region.

Some 500,000 Indian troops have massed along the border because of the ongoing violence in Kashmir which has brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war.

In three separate attacks, militants assaulted Hindu pilgrims, an Indian army post and Indian police officers. Fourteen people died in total, and more than 30 were wounded -- many seriously.

Indian Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani said a militant group said Al Mansuriya, a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, was responsible for the attacks, the Hindustan Times reports.

Pakistan has condemned the attacks but suggested it may not have been Islamic militants behind the action.

"The government of Pakistan condemns the terrorist attack on Hindu pilgrims in the Indian-occupied Kashmir which led to many deaths and a large number of injured," the foreign office said in a statement.

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Pakistan Information Minister Nisar Memon suggested Wednesday it was possible Hindu militants could have been responsible for the attacks.

In the first of three deadly attacks in Indian-administered Kashmir Tuesday, militants assaulted a group of Hindu pilgrims, killing nine and wounding at least 30, nearly half of them seriously, Indian police sources told CNN.

In a gun battle that followed with Indian security forces, a militant was killed.

The attack occurred 100 kilometers (62 miles) south of Srinagar near the international resort of Pahalgam.

The militants lobbed hand grenades and then fired indiscriminately at the group of Hindu pilgrims at a camp, the sources said.

In a second incident, Indian police said militants attacked an Indian army post in Handwara late Tuesday morning. An Indian soldier and two militants died, police said.

Handwara is located about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Srinagar.

In a third attack, police said militants opened fire Tuesday afternoon on two police officers in a marketplace in the Budgam district in central Kashmir -- located about 30 kilometers (20 miles) southwest of Srinagar.

One officer was killed and the other was wounded.

The attacks come shortly after India announced it will hold elections beginning September 16 on the side of Kashmir it controls.

The Indians complain Pakistan is allowing militants to infiltrate across the border from the Pakistan-controlled side.

Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf, has said he has ordered his troops to prevent any infiltrations from happening.

Kashmir election violence warning

Since that commitment from Musharraf, New Delhi says the number of incursions has reduced, but still continue.

Local media on Sunday reported that violence in the disputed region could increase ahead of the two-phased state-legislative elections to be held in Jammu-Kashmir during September and October.

Following last week's announcement of the poll schedule, security agencies stumbled on a plan to target one politician every day in a bid to sabotage the elections, the Press Trust of India reported.

Unnamed official sources told the PTI that several militant groups had directed their members to carry out attacks on offices of various political parties as well as discourage anyone from voting.

Officials say elaborate security measures will be made to ensure there is no disruption to the polling.

The State Assembly elections, which many Kashmiri separatist leaders oppose and have claimed will be rigged by the federal government, could help ease tensions between India and Pakistan, both of whom claim the Himalayan province.

New Delhi hopes that a good voter turnout and peaceful and fair process will ease tensions and curb human rights abuses in the northern state, as well as appease estranged Kashmiri political parties and bring them back into the federal fold.

Voter turnout in elections in Kashmir has been poor in the past due to fear of reprisals by Islamic militants.


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