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Kashmir Violence Flares, Renewing Tensions

According to Indian police, members of the Indian security forces shot and killed at least three suspects of the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group during a gun battle near Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Five other separatists were shot dead during two clashes with Indian forces in a neighboring district late Tuesday night, police told Reuters. Indian officials said they could not determine if the guerrillas had originated from Pakistani areas of control or from within Jammu and Kashmir.

The violence in the disputed Kashmir region comes as India’s new Foreign Minister Yashwant Sinha accused Pakistan Wednesday of reneging on its pledge to halt militant infiltrations into India’s side of Kashmir. Sinha said infiltrations are on the rise despite Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s promise in May to crack down on militant groups seeking to overthrow Indian rule in Kashmir.

“Initially there was some evidence of some reduction in infiltration which in recent days seems to have gone back to the situation that was prevailing prior to May 24. We are looking at it [infiltration] on a continuous, almost day-to-day vigil,” Sinha told reporters in New Delhi.

Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Aziz Ahmed Khan rejected India’s accusations, saying there have been no militant incursions across the “Line of Control” — the buffer zone dividing Indian and Pakistani military forces in Kashmir — since the pledge was made in late May.

India’s Sinha also accused Pakistan of funding and training the Islamic militants it accuses of carrying out attacks against Indian targets, including last December’s suicide assault on the Indian parliament.

“We need to be very, very careful in our dealings with President Musharraf,” the foreign minister said.

India’s accusation comes as three Pakistani security officials and four suspected militants were killed during a shoot-out with al-Qaida suspects at a military checkpoint near Kohat, a Pakistani town near the Afghan border.

The clash erupted early Wednesday as Pakistani police attempted to apprehend a vehicle carrying the suspected militants. According to Pakistani police, the four alleged al-Qaida members opened fire and threw grenades at the security officials before the gun battle began. All four militants, a Pakistani soldier, a policeman and an intelligence agent were killed, nearby hospital workers reported.

An unnamed Pakistani military official told Reuters that the suspected militants were identified as Chechens, who were “probably on a terrorist mission” to attack the towns of Kohat or Peshawar.

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