One dead in Indian Kashmir hotel attack: police

An Indian solider stands guard inside a hotel during a search operation after a shooting incident at a hotel on the outskirts of Srinagar on October 19,2012. AFP PHOTO/ Rouf BHAT

SRINAGAR, India: At least three gunmen attacked a popular hotel in the volatile region of Indian Kashmir on Friday, killing a bellboy and leaving at least two other people injured, security forces said.

The armed gang began shooting outside the Silver Star hotel on the outskirts of the main city of Srinagar at about 4:30 pm (1100 GMT) before entering the premises and firing "indiscriminately", according to a police statement.

Police said in the statement that "the militants had planned an... attack on army vehicles which were passing by. They did not succeed and thus tried to enter a nearby hotel."

The dead man was a bellboy, a senior security official said from the scene, while police said two others have been "rushed to hospital where they are being operated upon".

Afadal Mujtaba, a deputy inspector general for Srinagar police, told AFP that "these three gunmen opened fire and killed this boy and injured two others".

Dozens of soldiers and paramilitary police called to the spot cordoned off the four-storey hotel and were undertaking a search inside the hotel and the surrounding area to try and catch the gunmen, who are thought to have fled.

The motive for the attack remained unclear, although the police referred to the attackers as "militants".

Friday's attack, the first in Srinagar since May of this year, occurred on a day when several senior officials from the army, police, intelligence agencies and government met to review the security situation in the state.

In the May attack, two motorcyclists fired on a group of army officers, injuring seven.

Militant attacks on tourists or the tourist industry are rare and gunmen usually target security forces in their convoys or at the thousands of check-points that dot the heavily-militarised region.

The Silver Star hotel is a large mid-range hotel mostly popular with domestic tourists.

Holiday-makers have poured back into Indian-administered Kashmir over the last two years after a downturn in the separatist violence that had wrecked the tourism industry in the Muslim-majority region.

Kashmir is famed for its houseboats, serene lakes and soaring mountains, but it has also been the scene of decades of conflict as rebels have fought to break away from Indian government rule.

Many Western governments who previously urged their citizens to stay away from the region have steadily revised their travel advisories to reflect the drop in violence, which is at its lowest ebb since the insurgency began in 1989.

The Indian home ministry estimates more than 40,000 people have been killed since the rebel movement broke out, while human rights groups and separatists put the toll at 70,000-100,000.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan each hold part of the disputed region of Kashmir but both claim it in full. India accuses Pakistan of abetting the insurgency on its side of the border.

Resolving the territorial dispute, that has caused two of the three wars between the nuclear-armed neighbours since independence, is a key element in a slow-moving peace process that is under way.





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