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Indian Forces in Kashmir Kill 20

November 2, 2001

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JAMMU, India (AP) _ Indian forces in Kashmir killed at least 20 suspected Islamic militants who tried to cross over to Pakistan on Friday, the Indian army said.

The fighting came after security forces intercepted messages suggesting some militant groups would try to leave Kashmir to join Taliban forces in Afghanistan, said Brig. Gen. P.C. Das.

He said the militants were killed in four separate gun battles along the mountainous cease-fire line in the Poonch sector, about 140 miles northwest of Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu-Kashmir state.

The gun battles, which lasted for several hours, took place around three miles from the cease-fire line, Das said. He said Pakistani soldiers fired heavily from the other side of the cease fire line, trying to give cover to the militants.

More than a dozen Islamic separatist groups, most of them based in Pakistan, have fought Indian security forces and staged bombings in civilian areas of Kashmir since 1989. The insurgency has killed 30,000 people, the government says. Human rights groups put the toll at twice that number.

India says Pakistan arms, trains, and funds the militants. Islamabad denies the charge, saying it supports their cause but gives no material aid.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since gaining independence from Britain in 1947. India controls two-thirds of Kashmir and Pakistan controls the rest.

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