NEW DELHI, India – India's interior minister on Sunday ruled out dialogue with Pakistan as attacks by suspected Islamic militants flared up in Kashmir, killing 12 people in 24 hours.
The attacks, which began Saturday afternoon, came as tensions had begun to ease along the border in Kashmir that divides India and Pakistan.
Children, Hindu pilgrims and police officers were among those killed in the grenade explosions and gunfire, a senior security official in Kashmir said on condition of anonymity. Indian security forces also killed five Islamic militants in two separate gunbattles in southwestern Kashmir on Sunday, officials said.
"The terrorist infrastructure that Pakistan has built up inside its country and in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir has to be dismantled," Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani said. "Unless that is done, there is no point in any dialogue."
India and Pakistan have amassed some 1 million troops in the disputed Himalayan province after a Dec. 13 terror attack on the Indian Parliament that New Delhi blamed on Pakistan-backed Islamic militants.
That attack, as well as others by suspected militants in the Indian-held portion of Kashmir, has brought the nuclear-armed neighbors to the brink of war.
Yet in a sign that tensions along the border are decreasing, Indian army officials said Sunday that soldiers and officers had been allowed to go on leave for the first time since December.
Still, Indian officials say Pakistan's promises of curbing terrorist groups are having little effect, and New Delhi has refused to discuss troop withdrawals until the attacks end.
India says Pakistan backs the Islamic guerrillas who move across the Kashmir frontier to stage bombings and armed assaults on civilians and security forces in Indian territory. Islamabad says it gives only moral and diplomatic support to rebels who are fighting for Kashmir's independence.
More than 60,000 people have been killed in the 12-year insurgency. India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir's control since gaining independence in 1947.
Indian intelligence officials say the militants have apparently refrained from attacks over the past few weeks, as New Delhi and foreign governments led by the United States put pressure on Pakistan to stop the cross-border incursions.
Government offices in Islamabad were closed Sunday, but Pakistani officials have said they have halted cross-border incursions and that they cannot be held responsible for every attack that happens in Indian territory.
On Sunday morning, a plainclothes police officer was killed in Srinagar, the state's summer capital, in an ambush by the militants, officials said.
On Saturday night, militants stormed the remote mountainous village of Badar, killing five Hindus as they slept in their homes, police said. Badar is about 93 miles north of Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu-Kashmir state.
Three children aged between 8 and 14 years were also reported wounded.
Hours earlier, Farooq Abdullah, the state's top elected official, escaped a grenade attack by suspected militants while inaugurating a public building in Srinagar, Jammu-Kashmir's summer capital.
Also Saturday, suspected Islamic guerrillas lobbed grenades and fired at about 500 Hindu pilgrims trudging down a mountaintop shrine elsewhere in Jammu-Kashmir, killing three Hindu children and three of their Muslim escorts, the police control room in Jammu said Sunday.
Seven pilgrims were wounded in the attack in a remote area some 120 miles northeast of Jammu.