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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

9 Hindu Pilgrims Die in Kashmir Ambush

NUNWAN, India -- Suspected Islamic militants lobbed a grenade and opened fire Tuesday on Hindu pilgrims in Kashmir, killing nine of them and wounding 27, police said.

Police suspect Islamic militants were behind the ambush that occurred at 5:20 a.m. A half-dozen militants sneaked into the pilgrimage transit camp in Nunwan, about 90 kilometers southeast of Srinagar, the summer capital of India's northern Jammu-Kashmir state, said Nirmal Raj, commander of the Central Reserve Police guarding the camp.

He said the police retaliated, killing one of the rebels.

"We heard a sudden explosion on the east side of the camp near the makeshift toilets and then the guards asked us to lie flat on the ground," Rajwant Soni, an injured devotee, said in a Srinagar hospital. "Six people were killed and lying on the grass in front of me."

There were bullet holes in the makeshift tin-sheet toilets and bloodied clothes, shoes and sandals littered the campground.

In New Delhi, I.D. Swamy, the junior home minister, condemned the attack. He said the government did not know who was behind it, but that there might be a Pakistani link.

"There can be Pakistan's involvement since its policy was to disturb peace in Kashmir. There will be attempts to disturb elections [this fall] in Kashmir. We will foil these attempts," Swamy said.

Chamanlal Gupta, India's junior minister for defense who traveled to the campsite, said the dead militant carried a suicide note that said his aim was to disrupt the pilgrimage. It also asked that he be buried at a Muslim shrine in the area.

Gupta said the man carried an AK-47 with an inscription of "Mujahedin Cassette House, Lahore," Pakistan's second-largest city. The gun had a sticker that read, "Al-Umar Mujahedin."

Indian Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani said militant outfit Al-Mansuriya, an offshoot of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, was to blame, though he did not elaborate.

More than 2,000 pilgrims were inside the tented camp at the time of attack, witnesses said.

At least 125,000 Hindu pilgrims are making the monthlong annual pilgrimage. No specific threats were made against the pilgrims this year by the separatist groups. But police say the threat of violence was greater because India is holding state elections in Kashmir next month. Kashmiri separatists have called for a boycott of the vote.

At least 60,000 people have been killed during the militants' 12-year insurgency, and India and Pakistan have twice gone to war over the Himalayan enclave that both claim in its entirety.