Index

DATE=3/21/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=KASHMIR / KILLINGS (L) NUMBER=2-260400 BYLINE=JIM TEEPLE DATELINE=NEW DELHI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Unidentified gunmen have killed 35 Sikh men in a small village in Kashmir. The attack occurred late Monday, on the eve of President Clinton's official visit to India. V-O-A's Jim Teeple reports Mr. Clinton has condemned the attack which Indian security forces are blaming on separatist militants in Kashmir. Text: In one of the worst attacks on civilians in years, gunmen entered village, Chati Singhpura Mattan, late Monday -- telling villagers they were conducting a crackdown on separatist militants active in the area. The unidentified gunmen then rounded up the villagers, separated the men from women and opened fire at point-blank range on the men. A-K Bhan, the inspector general of police in the Indian state Jammu and Kashmir says security forces are searching the remote area for the attackers. // BHAN ACTUALITY // People are shocked by this attack on innocent civilians. Senior police officials are on the spot and the army has sent a number of columns to scan the entire area. // END ACTUALITY // Mr. Bhan says separatist militants are to blame for the attack. The village -- about 70 kilometers south of Srinigar -- is in an area populated by armed counter-insurgency forces. These are made up of former separatist militants who have been recruited by India's security forces. In recent months, separatist militants have focused their attacks on military personnel -- avoiding attacks on civilians. // OPT // The killings are the first major attack on a Sikh village in Kashmir's ten-year insurgency. Although about 300 thousand Hindu inhabitants of Kashmir have left the area, Sikhs who control much of the trucking business in Kashmir, have stayed and have been left largely undisturbed by the wide-scale violence. // END OPT // Tuesday -- as he began his official visit to India -- President Clinton condemned the attack, calling it an outrage and expressing sympathy for the victims and their families. Mr. Clinton has called the "line of control" which divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan sectors the "most dangerous place on earth" and says a major focus of his visit to South Asia will be to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan. Bharat Karmal of the Center for Policy in research says the killings in Kashmir will hurt Mr. Clinton's efforts to reconcile India and Pakistan. // KARMAL ACTUALITY // I think Clinton was hoping that he would start some kind of dialogue going -- at least that he would be able to convince the Indian side to sit down in some fashion with the Pakistanis. Now, after this particular episode, I think it would be very difficult for the Indian government to resign from their position that they will not talk to Pakistan without the Pakistani Government taking steps to contain terrorism -- cross border terrorism of the kind that has been happening. So, I think that becomes a major obstacle to anything happening. // END ACTUALITY // Both India and Pakistan claim the territory of Kashmir in its entirety. Two of the three wars the two counties have fought have been over the disputed territory. Last year, both countries nearly went to war again, after armed guerrillas from Pakistan occupied strategic mountain heights on the Indian side of the Kashmir border. (Signed) neb/jlt/WD 21-Mar-2000 02:05 AM EDT (21-Mar-2000 0705 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .