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34 killed in held Kashmir

May 02, 2006

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JAMMU, May 1: Suspected militants massacred 34 Hindus in Kashmir in attacks aimed at wrecking peace talks between the government and moderate separatists, officials said on Monday.

Twenty-two unarmed villagers, mostly shepherds or their families, were lined up and gunned down in Thawa village in the southern district of Doda on Sunday night.

In the neighbouring district of Udhampur, 12 Hindus kidnapped on Sunday by suspected rebels were shot dead. Four bodies were found on Sunday and eight more on Monday.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and a Muslim separatist leader condemned the sectarian massacres, the worst for six years in the state.

Survivors of the Thawa attack, which also injured eight people including a nine-year-old girl, described the terror.

“Ten to 12 militants dressed in army uniforms entered Thawa and told our chief to collect villagers for a meeting and when the people came the militants separated the group and shot nine at one location and 11 at another,” said Sadiq Ahmed.

“They pumped bullet after bullet into the group of unarmed people.”

Two more villagers later died from their wounds, Ahmed said, as both Hindus and Muslims staged a protest strike on Monday in Doda, which borders Pakistan. The injured were flown by military helicopters to the Government Medical College in Jammu city, where most were still in shock.

“The gunmen started beating us. When I tried to prevent my husband getting killed, they opened fire killing many people,” said 37-year-old Gilu Devi as she recalled her futile effort to save her husband. Devi and her eight-year-old daughter were being treated in the hospital.

Others with bullet wounds were too shocked to speak, while some complained of inadequate security in the region.

“The massacre was a pre-planned attack and obviously it was an attempt to derail the upcoming talks,” Inspector-General of Police S. P. Vaid said in Kashmir’s winter capital of Jammu.—AFP