SLUG: 2-270809 India / Kashmir DATE: NOTE NUMBER:









INTRO: India says it is determined to push ahead with its peace initiative

in Kashmir, despite a spate of recent attacks by suspected Kashmiri

separatist militants. Anjana Pasricha reports from New Delhi, security has

been stepped up following a suicide attack that killed seven people --

including four Indian soldiers - in the Kashmiri capital, Srinagar.

TEXT: Defense Minister George Fernandes says the government will persevere

with its ceasefire in Kashmir and continue its efforts to achieve peace in

the insurgency-wracked Kashmir region. He told Indian radio, the government

will hold talks with Kashmiri political leaders.

The defense minister's assertion came after suspected Muslim militants

staged two high profile attacks, following the government's announcement last week that it will extend its unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir.

An attack on the historic Red Fort in the Indian capital, last week, was

followed by Monday's bomb blast outside army headquarters in Srinagar.

A suspected suicide bomber drove a car packed with explosives to the main

gate of the army headquarters, killing soldiers and civilians.

Two Muslim militant groups - the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen and the

Jaish-e-Mohammed - have claimed responsibility for the bomb blast in Srinagar.

The two groups - along with other militant groups fighting for Kashmir's

independence from India - have rejected India's peace initiative and are

continuing armed struggle in Kashmir.

Meanwhile, police in New Delhi have arrested one Muslim militant alleged to have been

involved in last week's attack on the Red Fort. Police say his accomplice

was shot dead in a gunbattle that took place when they raided a house in a

crowded Muslim neighborhood. Officials say both men belong to the hard-line

Lakshar-e-Toiba group that had claimed responsibility for the attack.

Security is tight across the Indian capital, following threats by the

Lakshar-e-Toiba to stage more attacks. Police say there is a high alert at

airports, rail stations, bus terminals and government offices.

Kashmir is India's only Muslim-majority region. More than 30 thousand people have

been killed in the region since a Muslim insurgency flared in 1989. The

ceasefire that came into effect in Kashmir in late November is the Indian

government's first significant peace initiative in its decade-long struggle

with the separatists. (signed)

neb / ap / wd