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India Claims Destruction of Huge Militant Hideout in Kashmir - 2003-05-23


India says it has destroyed a huge base belonging to Muslim militants in disputed Kashmir, as part of a month-long military sweep high in the Himalayan mountian range.

The regional commander for India's top counter-insurgency unit, Major-General Hardev Singh Lidder, said more than 60 suspected Muslim insurgents were killed in the operation.

He said some of the fighting took place at altitudes of four thousand meters in rugged, snow-covered terrain.

Journalists flown to the scene were told huge amounts of ammunition and military hardware were found in sophisticated bunkers. Authorities said the encampments also housed medical supplies, satellite phones, diaries and copies of the Koran.

The French News Agency said the command base also had facilities for performing medical surgeries.

India says the destroyed mountain base was used by several known Muslim terrorist organizations, including the outlawed Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad groups. Authorities accused Pakistan of supplying the base.

Pakistan has repeatedly denied direct involvement in Kashmir fighting. But Islamabad says it gives moral support to the Kashmiri people, in what it calls their fight for self-determination.

General Lidder told the French News Agency the sweep was planned in January, after a captured suspect said as many as 350 militants were holed up near the border dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

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