Two Americans, Six Tourists Killed in Kashmir Grenade Attacks

A series of grenade attacks killed eight people and wounded more than two dozen in the main city of Indian Kashmir on Tuesday as Islamic militants pressed their fight against New Delhi's rule over the Himalayan region, police said.

Two of the five attacks targeted the region's vital tourism industry and killed at least seven visitors from other parts of India.

The attacks came as violence surges in Kashmir despite peace efforts between India and Pakistan, which both claim all of the predominantly Muslim region that is divided between them.

CountryWatch: India

The deadliest single attack Tuesday took place when suspected militants tossed a grenade into a minibus carrying Indian tourists through Srinagar, the summer capital of India's part of Kashmir, police officer Farooq Ahmed said.

Five of the tourists, including four women, were killed in the blast and two later succumbed to their wounds while being treated at a hospital, he said. Another 12 people were wounded.

Blood stained the streets at the scene of the attack, which took place around noon, and shards of shattered glass and the debris of small, colorful souvenirs shattered by the explosion were scattered throughout the area.

About an hour later, three more grenade attacks hit the city in quick succession.

One targeted police patrolling a crowded shopping area, wounding four passengers in a car nearby, Farooq said.

Another grenade hit a four-wheel drive taxi, killing one passenger and wounding six people, including bystanders, he said.

Tuesday's fourth blast took place in a small residential neighborhood and injured five people, including two Americans of Kashmiri descent who were visiting family in Srinagar, said police officer Javed Koul. The mother and daughter, both from the San Francisco area, were not seriously injured, he said.

The fifth attack took place later in the afternoon when an assailant threw a grenade at a pavilion where tourists find taxies and book hotel rooms, injuring six people, he said.

But unlike the other attacks, security forces managed to apprehend the alleged assailant before he could flee, Farooq said.

More than a dozen rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 to wrest Kashmir from India, a largely Hindu country. The conflict has killed more than 67,000 people.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday's violence, the militants often use grenades to attack crowds — insurgents killed five people Saturday, including a well-known local politician, when they threw a grenade into the courtyard of a Muslim shrine.

Militants also have on five previous occasions this year targeted tourists from other parts of India, a pattern that a top tourism official in India's Jammu-Kashmir state, Naeem Akhtar, called "a dangerous development."

Militant attacks are usually most frequent in the summer — when Kashmir's high mountain passes are clear of snow — and a drop in violence last year was hailed as a dividend of the India-Pakistan peace process.

But attacks are up more than 20 percent in the first five months of the year compared to same period in 2005, authorities say.

Attacks in recent days have also challenged a claim made by officials last week that the capture in June of two top militant leaders would quell the violence. The arrests of Manzoor Wani and Yasin Itoo, both of the Hezb-ul Mujahedeen group, had "solved" the spike in violence, Kashmir's Director General of Police Gopal Sharma told reporters on July 4.

Kashmir was divided between India and Pakistan in war after they gained independence from Britain in 1947, and they fought another full-scale conflict over the region in 1965.

But even as the two nuclear rivals have talked peace in the past two years, New Delhi has continued to accuse Pakistan of training, arming and funding the militants. Islamabad insists it only offers the rebels diplomatic and moral support.