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17 police shot dead in Kashmir

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March 3, 2001 


JAMMU, India (AP) Suspected Islamic guerrillas attacked two police vehicles in the northern Indian Jammu-Kashmir state Friday, gunning down 17 policemen and injuring six others, officials said.

Police and soldiers reached Manjakot village, about 150 miles northwest of Jammu, several hours after the attack, and found the bullet-riddled bodies of a dozen policemen in a forest. Five others died from gunshot wounds at a hospital in Jammu, the state's winter capital.

Officials said the police team, riding in a jeep and a minibus, had gone to Manjakot to investigate reports that two civilians had been killed by militants Thursday. The team was attacked as they exited their vehicles, and a fierce gunbattle went on for nearly two hours, an official said on condition of anonymity.

It was not known if any militants had died in the shootout.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir since they won independence from Britain in 1947. Both countries claim the entire Himalayan territory, which has been divided between them since 1948.

Since 1989, an Islamic insurgency in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, supported by militants from Pakistan, has left 30,000 dead, according to the government. Human rights activists put the number at 60,000.

Jammu-Kashmir's top elected official, Farooq Abdullah, condemned the massacre of the police, calling it yet another attempt to sabotage peace overtures made by Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Last week, Vajpayee extended a unilateral cease-fire against separatist militant groups for another three months.

The cease-fire, first declared in November to coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, has been extended three times in the hope of pushing a peace dialogue. It has been rejected by the militant groups.

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