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Militants Set Fire to Kashmir Building

January 7, 2005

SRINAGAR, India (AP) _ Police on Friday said militants stormed a government building in Indian-controlled Kashmir, setting it on fire with 70 employees still trapped inside. Three people were killed in the fighting, an official said.

Three militants made their way into a government tax building, hurling a hand grenade that set off a blaze, a police officer said on condition of anonymity.

Government forces surrounded the building, said K. Srinivasan, Deputy Inspector General of the Border Security Force. Gunfire was exchanged between the militants and soldiers outside.

``We are trying to storm the building from two sides with two objectives _ one to put out fire and second to evacuate civilians safely,″ the security force inspector said.

One paramilitary soldier, one civilian and one militant had been killed, he said.

It was not immediately clear if any of the 70 employees had been hurt or killed.

More than a dozen militant groups have fought security forces in India’s Jammu-Kashmir state since 1989, seeking independence for the Himalayan province or its merger with neighboring Pakistan.

More than 66,000 people, mostly civilians, have died in the 15-year conflict.

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