Beliefnet
New Delhi, Jan. 9--(AP) Indian security forces shot and killed a suspected Islamic militant and captured another after a three-hour standoff in a mosque in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. Indian officials said the two militants, belonging to the Hezb-ul Mujahedeen militant group, had sought refuge in the mosque in Bamurada, 18 miles northwest of Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian state of Jammu-Kashmir.

The standoff was the latest violence in Kashmir by Islamic militants who are at the center of tensions that have brought nuclear-armed India and Pakistan close to war. The two countries' troops, massed at their borders, traded fire again Wednesday across the Line of Control dividing Kashmir.

More than a dozen Islamic militant groups are fighting security forces in the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir, the flashpoint of two of the South Asian neighbors' three wars since 1947. India says Pakistan funds and trains the militants, but Islamabad says it only offers them moral and diplomatic support.

India and Pakistan started reinforcing their borders and heated up their rhetoric after New Delhi accused Islamabad of sponsoring an Dec. 13 attack on its Parliament that India said was conducted by Islamic militants. Pakistan denied the charge.

In one bright spot amid the breakdown in ties, India and Pakistan have continued weekly phone contacts first begun in 1985. Indian Defense ministry spokesman P.K. Bandhopadhyaya said the military operations chiefs of the two countries most recently spoke Tuesday. "The director generals of military operations from India and Pakistan have spoken to each other every week," only missing calls over Eid al-Fitr, the Muslim festival marking the end of Ramadan, and Christmas, Bandhopadhyaya said.

However, senior Pakistani officials tried Wednesday to keep down expectations that President Gen. Pervez Musharraf is drafting radical new policies aimed at permanently easing strains with her neighbor. Such hopes were raised a day before by U.S. senators who visited the region. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the senators may have misunderstood existing policies aimed at fighting Islamic radicalism.

They also for the first time since recent tensions flared gave a more detailed picture of the build-up of troops at the border; they said Pakistan has about 200,000 troops at the border and that India has some 650,000 there. It was not possible to immediately confirm the India figure.

In the standoff at Bamurada, soldiers and paramilitary forces first surrounded the mosque, said R.P. Sandhu, commanding officer of the army unit that conducted the operation. He said the military used loudspeakers to try and get the two militants to surrender, and even sent in some villagers to negotiate, but that the pair starting firing. One of the suspected militants was killed and the other wounded, he said.

In nearby Srinagar, shops were closed and traffic stayed off the roads Wednesday after some Islamic militant groups called for a daylong strike to protest the death of a 22-year-old man who was in police custody.

The shooting near the Line of Control was the first time that troops had fired at each other in the northern sector, of Kashmir, although there have been sharp exchanges of gunfire in the border districts of Poonch and Rajouri in the northwest.

India and Pakistan have been in a standoff since an attack on the Indian Parliament last month in which 14 people were killed, including five assailants. India has accused the Pakistani spy agency of sponsoring the assault, a charge Pakistan denies.

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