SRINAGAR, India – Two suspected Islamic militants launched an attack Wednesday against the biggest India-Pakistan peace gesture in decades, storming a guesthouse holding more than two dozen passengers of the first bus across divided Kashmir (search), police and witnesses said.
Both attackers were killed and at least three people were injured, said Director-General of Police Gopal Sharma, the state's police chief before the sprawling building was gutted by 100-foot flames.
All the bus passengers were safe, he said.
Smoke poured from the windows of the sprawling quadrangular building as people jumped from the ground floor assisted by soldiers. The heat was so intense that firefighters could not enter the building.
The raid was the biggest attack yet targeted at the bus service, set to be inaugurated Thursday by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (search). It will connect Srinagar and Muzaffarabad, the capitals of the Himalayan region divided for decades between India and Pakistan.
Officials in the Indian- and Pakistani-controlled sides of Kashmir condemned the attack and said the bus service would go ahead on schedule.
Four Islamic rebel groups, fighting Indian security forces in Kashmir since 1989, claimed responsibility for the attack in a call to The Associated Press.
"One man opened fire" at the entrance of the guest house, said Mohammed Yusuf, a state government employee in Srinagar, summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir. Gunfire followed.
There was at least one other attacker.
Security forces brought people out of the guesthouse, asking them to keep their hands raised as troops scoured the complex for the attackers.
One of the injured was a woman shot on the street outside the building, collapsing before television cameras and then hobbling away with a wound in her back and her clothes soaked in blood. People screamed.
The street was blocked off as dozens of soldiers and police officers swarmed the area.
The trans-Kashmir road, once the region's main highway, has been closed for nearly six decades because of the enmity between India and Pakistan, which both claim Kashmir in its entirety.
More than a dozen rebel groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with Pakistan since 1989. At least 66,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the conflict.