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|February 20, 1999||
20 persons gunned down in Kashmir
Mukhtar Ahmadin Srinagar
Twenty Hindu villagers were gunned down by terrorists in three separate incidents in Jammu and Kashmir even as Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee embarked on his historic visit to Pakistan.
Terrorists gunned down seven members of a marriage party at Village Bajrala in Rajouri district at about 0200 hours IST today.
Police said the terrorists attacked the marriage party of one Virender Kumar with assault rifles and fled.
Eight injured members of the party have been shifted to a Jammu hospital.
The massacre triggered tension and the authorities clamped indefinite curfew and deployed troops in the district. Shoot-at-sight orders were also issued.
In another incident, four villagers were gunned down early this morning at Village Khudbani under the Kalakote police station limits in the same district.
Police said Border Security Force personnel were rushed to the area, which was sealed.
Following the incidents, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah rushed two of his senior ministers and Jammu Range police chief Kuldeep Khuda to Rajouri to take stock of the situation.
Police sources said Education Minister Sharief Tariq and Animal Husbandry Minister S S Slathia would review the situation with the district administration.
In the third incident, nine villagers were gunned down last midnight at Village Badyani near Arnas in Udhampur district, according to a report received by the Jammu police.
The area is near Prankote where 27 villagers were gunned down by terrorists last April. He said some villagers came on foot to inform the nearest security force picket.
Sources said militants entered the homes of the villagers and killed them.
Senior police and security officers rushed to the area. But a senior police officer said the area is inaccessible and it would take several hours on foot to reach the village.
Meanwhile, the strike called by the All-Parties Hurriyat Conference in Kashmir against Vajpayee's Pakistan visit was complete.
APHC chairman Sayed Ali Shah Geelani said Kashmiris should be included in the India-Pakistan talks to find a solution to the problem.
He said the struggle for the right to self-determination would continue in Kashmir.
Following the strike call, tight security arrangements were made in the valley. Troops were seen checking passing vehicles and frisking passers-by. Shops remained closed while traffic was off the roads.
Late yesterday, eight security force personnel were killed in a gun battle at Khabagh in Dr Abdullah's constituency.
Police said the army was called in and two of the terrorists were shot dead in a subsequent encounter.
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