Car bomb, gunfights kill 13, injure 40 in Indian-controlled Kashmir

Two powerful explosions rocked a crowded residential area in the Indian portion of Kashmir on Wednesday, killing at least six people and wounding 40 others, a senior paramilitary officer said.

Suspected insurgents triggered a small explosion that then detonated a bigger bomb in an abandoned car on a busy street in Srinagar, the summer capital of India's Jammu-Kashmir state, Hari Lal, an officer of the Central Reserve Police Force, told The Associated Press.

The nearly simultaneous blasts left three soldiers and three civilians dead, Lal said. An additional 30 civilians and 10 soldiers were wounded in the explosions, which also damaged several vehicles, he said.

Seven people were also killed in violence elsewhere in Kashmir on Wednesday.

Suspected rebels attacked an army patrol killing two soldiers in Chunti-Mulla village, 70 kilometers (43 miles) north of Srinagar, a police officer said on condition of anonymity. The attackers fled after the ambush.

Indian soldiers, meanwhile, intercepted and shot dead three guerrillas attempting to infiltrate Indian-controlled territory from Pakistan's portion of Kashmir early Wednesday near Tangdhar sector, north of Srinagar, defense spokesman Lt. Col. V.K. Batra said.

And a school teacher and a former militant were gunned down by suspected rebels in two separate incidents, police said.

The Srinagar exlosions shattered windows at dozens of nearby buildings, and the twisted metal of the destroyed vehicle was scattered over 50 meters (55 yards).

A person identifying himself as the spokesman for a Pakistan-based rebel group, Al-Nasireen, claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call to the Current News Service, a local news agency.

Separatist rebels have vowed to continue fighting Indian forces despite India and Pakistan declaring a cease-fire in Kashmir and holding talks aimed at settling the decades-old Kashmir dispute. Rebels want to be part of the India-Pakistan dialogue that began in January last year.

Authorities say that nearly 160 rebels, including 38 commanders, have been killed in the Indian portion of Kashmir since January.

"The loss of their leaders has put tremendous pressure on the militants. Their is desperation among their ranks which makes them commit such actions," said K. Srinivasan, the intelligent chief of India's paramilitary Border Security Force.

Srinivasan also said that despite peace initiatives by India and Pakistan, at least 50 rebels had entered Indian-held Kashmir from Pakistani territory since January, and another 400 were waiting to cross the Line of Control that divides Kashmir between the neighboring countries. Both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety.

India has long accused Pakistan of supporting and arming the rebels, a charge which Islamabad denies.

More than a dozen Islamic militant groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with Pakistan since 1989. More than 66,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the conflict.

MUJTABA ALI AHMAD, Associated Press Writer

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