1,086 people killed in Kashmir conflict in 2005, India says

A total of 1,086 civilians, soldiers and militants were killed in violence in Indian-controlled Kashmir in 2005, bringing the death toll to at least 67,000 since a rebellion broke out in the Himalayan region in 1989, police announced Wednesday. The overall number of fatalities dropped 36 percent from 2004, while civilian deaths fell nearly 41 percent, according to the new police figures.

A majority of the dead were Islamic militants killed while fighting Indian security forces, police said. During 2005, 353 civilians, 128 Indian security personnel and 605 militants were killed, the police said. In the latest violence, two suspected militants were killed Wednesday when Indian soldiers raided a rebel hideout in a village north of Srinagar, police said.

The new police figures raised the estimated total death toll in 16 years of insurgency and counterattacks to at least 67,000. About a dozen militant groups have been fighting since December 1989 to merge the Indian-controlled part of Kashmir with neighboring Pakistan, or win its independence.

Officials say rebel violence has declined in the past year following renewed efforts by India and Pakistan to make peace and resolve their dispute over Kashmir, which both claim.

During the two-year-old peace process, the two countries have reopened rail and bus links and stepped up humanitarian cooperation after the region was devastated by a massive earthquake in October. India and Pakistan have fought two wars since 1947 over their conflicting claims to the former princely state of Jammu-Kashmir. Pakistan says it supports the militants' cause, but denies Indian charges that it funds, arms and trains the guerrillas, reports the AP. I.L.

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