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By Shahnawaz Khan
Srinagar, Kashmir
27 August 2008

Indian forces in Kashmir say they have killed one of three suspected Muslim militants who are holding about half a dozen hostages including women and children. Shahnawaz Khan reports for VOA from Srinagar police say the militants killed at least three people on the outskirts of Kashmir's Hindu-dominated winter capital of Jammu.

Indian soldiers take positions at the scene of a gun battle in Jammu, India, 27 Aug 2008
Indian soldiers take positions at the scene of a gun battle in Jammu, India, 27 Aug 2008
Police officials say the suspected Muslim militants were being tracked by police after slipping across the border from Pakistan on Tuesday. After a gunbattle with police the militants fled into a house, taking seven people, including women and children hostage.

Inspector General of Police for Jammu Province, K. Rajendra, said police are taking precautions to ensure the safety of the hostages.

"Our efforts are to first evacuate the civilians and then go for the final action," he said. "We are exercising maximum restraint to ensure the civilians are safe. We have every apprehension that the terrorists may harm the civilians."

Rajendra says police are also looking for more infiltrators in the Jammu region.

The Inspector General says the militants are trying to exploit the unrest in Hindu-dominated Jammu regions.

"These militants for sure have come with a specific and single point objective of creating communal trouble in Jammu," he said.
 
Tension has run high in the region since June, when the government announced plans to transfer land in a Muslim-majority area to a Hindu shrine. Muslim protests prompted the government to rescind the plan, angering Hindus.

The controversy has stirred Hindu protests in Jammu province, and Muslim protests in the Kashmir Valley where they have snowballed into mass pro-freedom demonstrations.

Kashmir is divided between Pakistan and India but claimed by both. Muslim separatists have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India, or for its merger with Muslim-dominated Pakistan, since 1989

Security forces have detained at least four Muslim separatist leaders Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, Syed Ali Geelani and Mohammed Yasin Malik, including the head of Kashmir's women's separatist group Asiya Andrabi.  

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