Singh in Kashmir to Open Rail Link After Terror Strike Kills 8

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will inaugurate a rail link that connects Indian-controlled Kashmir with the rest of the nation, two days after a militant strike killed eight soldiers in the disputed territory.

Singh, accompanied by Congress party President Sonia Gandhi, left for Kashmir today to open the 19-kilometer (12-mile) line tomorrow amid a tourism boom in the area guarded by about half a million soldiers and police. Yesterday’s terror attack won’t deter his government’s efforts to bring peace to the region, Singh said in a statement.

Guerrillas opened fire, lobbed grenades at an army convoy on the outskirts of Srinagar, the summer capital of India’s northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, and fled, said Naresh Vij, a spokesman for the army. Six others were injured. The militant group Hizbul Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attack, the Press Trust of India reported.

Yesterday’s strike is the second in three days after militants gunned down two policemen in Srinagar at the weekend. Militants have escalated violence since the February execution of a Kashmiri sentenced to death for his role in the 2001 attack on India’s parliament.

The $3.4 billion rail project includes an 11.2-kilometer tunnel, India’s longest, built by Hindustan Construction Co. from Banihal in Jammu to Qazigund in the Kashmir valley.

Kashmir, divided between India and Pakistan since 1947 and claimed in full by both, has been the cause of two wars between the nuclear-armed neighbors. Tourists returned to Kashmir in record numbers over the last year as violence linked to a separatist insurgency that erupted in 1989 continued to ebb in India’s only Muslim-majority state.

The two nations have repaired economic and sporting ties since resuming peace talks snapped by the 2008 raid on Mumbai by Pakistani guerrillas.

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