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Thursday, 16 May, 2002, 10:43 GMT 11:43 UK
India weighs Kashmir response
Shiv Sena activists burn Pakistani flag in Jammu after the attack
Many Indians want their government to take action
Senior Indian ministers and security officials have met in the capital, Delhi, to decide how to react to Tuesday's militant attack on an army camp in Jammu and Kashmir.

The time for action has come

General S. Padmanabhan
Indian army chief
Thirty-four people, many of them women and chidren and including the attackers, were killed in the gunfight, the bloodiest in the region since last October.

There have been calls for the Indian Government to retaliate against Pakistan, which it says backs the Kashmiri separatists blamed for the deaths.

The government in Islamabad, however, denies any involvement. It has condemned the killing of civilians, but not the attack itself.

Indian officials say the contents of the meeting, at which the defence and home ministers were briefed by top commanders, will be made public in parliament on Friday.

'Time for action'

Although no formal response has been announced, the chief of the Indian army, General S Padmanabhan, has hinted that India may go on the offensive in Kashmir.

"I don't want to go into the specifics but the time for action has come," the army chief told Indian television reporters in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.

Shattered remains of bus targeted in the attack
Attack: Bloodiest for seven months
"I would not like to discuss the options in the media, or out in the public, but we would discuss the options with the government and come to some definite conclusion."

Meanwhile, in a series of top-level phone calls, the United States has been urging caution and restraint on both sides.

Washington is fearful that tension over Kashmir could erupt into direct fighting between the two nuclear neighbours.

President Bush called Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Wednesday to offer condolences and sympathy.

Mr Vajpayee told him India would take "appropriate" measures in response to the attack, without elaborating.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since independence from Britain in 1947.

Gun battle

The attack at Kaluchak was the bloodiest since nearly 40 people died in a raid on the state assembly in the summer capital, Srinagar, last October.

The three attackers, who were wearing army uniforms, arrived by bus at the Kaluchak camp early on Tuesday morning.

Officials said they opened fire indiscriminately with assault rifles and threw grenades, killing seven other bus passengers before storming the camp gate.

The attackers were eventually killed during a gun battle with soldiers and police.

No organisation has admitted carrying out the attack, but Indian officials suspect Pakistan-based groups such as Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad.

On Wednesday, police in Islamabad re-arrested the founder of Lashkar-e-Toiba.

Mohammad Saeed had only been released six weeks ago, having served three months in detention after his group was banned in January.

See also:

15 May 02 | South Asia
US seeks South Asia talks
15 May 02 | South Asia
Eyewitness: Kashmir camp attack
15 May 02 | South Asia
Analysis: US keeps South Asian peace
06 Apr 02 | South Asia
Indian police warn of Kashmir 'plot'
14 May 02 | South Asia
US balancing act over Kashmir
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