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Indian policemen take cover during a gun and grenade battle in Srinagar which left five soldiers and two militants dead, and another 10 people wounded.
Indian policemen take cover during a gun and grenade battle in Srinagar which left five soldiers and two militants dead, and another 10 people wounded.

Militants lob grenades during cricket match, killing five soldiers

Kashmir militants hid guns and grenades in a sports bag, mixed with a group of boys playing cricket near a school compound before throwing grenades at paramilitary troops in bloodiest attack in years

SRINAGAR, India // Two militants attacked a group of paramilitary soldiers on the outskirts of the capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir yesterday morning, leaving five soldiers and both militants dead and 10 other people wounded, police said.

The two militants, who hid their guns and grenades in a sports bag, mixed with a group of boys playing cricket near a school compound for the children of police officials before lobbing grenades at the paramilitary troops, said SA Mujtaba, a police officer.

No pupils or teachers were at the school because of strikes in the wake of the February execution of a Kashmiri militant. Seven of those injured were members of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force and three were civilians, police said.

Officials said earlier that the attack occurred at a paramilitary camp, which is next to the school. By midday, heavily armed soldiers filled the area, searching for any surviving militants.

Later Wednesday, paramilitary soldiers shot and killed a civilian who they said was part of a group of protesters throwing stones at vehicles taking the injured to a hospital.

Local residents, however, said Altaf Ahmad Wani, 35, was not protesting or throwing rocks at the troops.

Kashmir has been wracked by more than two decades of separatist violence. While militant attacks have decreased dramatically in recent years, Kashmir has faced weeks of protests since the hanging of Mohammed Afzal Guru for involvement in a 2001 attack on India's Parliament that killed 14 people, including five of the gunmen. Many Kashmiris do not believe Guru received a fair trial. Anger in the region, where anti-India sentiment runs deep, was further fueled by the execution's secrecy.

No one has claimed responsibility for Wednesday's attack, though suspicion immediately fell on Muslim separatists. Ashok Prasad, a top Kashmir police official, said the style of attack "had the signature" of the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Indian federal home secretary R.K. Singh also said the militants appeared to be from Pakistan. He gave no other details.

Indian officials accuse Pakistan's intelligence agency of working with Lashkar-e-Taiba to plan the bloody 2008 Mumbai siege, an allegation Islamabad denies.

Lashkar-e-Taiba was formed with the help of Pakistani intelligence over two decades ago to put pressure on India over Kashmir. Pakistan has since banned the group but has seemingly done little to crack down on the militants. Many analysts believe they still enjoy state support.

The Himalayan region is divided between India and Pakistan, but claimed in its entirety by both. The insurgents are demanding either a separate state or a merger with Muslim-majority Pakistan.

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