Kashmiri separatists kill three in raid on historic Red Fort

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The Independent Online

Armed militants struck at the heart of the Indian capital last night, killing a soldier and two civilian army employees at the Red Fort in Old Delhi.

Armed militants struck at the heart of the Indian capital last night, killing a soldier and two civilian army employees at the Red Fort in Old Delhi.

A hardline Kashmiri separatist group, Lashkar e Toiba, claimed responsibility for the attack on the sandstone fort. In a call to the BBC in Delhi, a man claiming to represent the group said it was "an answer to the Indian government ceasefire in Kashmir". In a second call, he said one attacker had escaped and another was still inside the fort.

Indian police said two men with automatic weapons had entered the Red Fort at about 9.40pm local time while a party for army families was being held inside. They reportedly fired indiscriminately.

The attack strikes at the heart of the Indian establishment. The fort, which dates back to the 17th century, is one of the most potent symbols of the power of the Mogul kings who once ruled India. Its two-kilometre-long walls dominate the crowded part of the city known as Old Delhi. A battalion of the Indian army is garrisoned at the fort, whose gardens and pavilions are a popular tourist attraction.

The attack came a day after the Indian government extended its unilateral ceasefire in Kashmir by a month. After India's announcement of the extension, Pakistan declared a partial withdrawal of its troops from along the ceasefire line dividing the Himalayan province.

Lashkar has dismissed the ceasefire as an attempt to "hoodwink" the world over what is happening in Kashmir. The group, whose name means "Army of the Pure", has launched a number of similar attacks against Indian army installations in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir.

There has been a decline in violence in Kashmir after India's announcement of its ceasefire, which was timed to coincide with the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

However, some separatist groups have refused to recognise the gesture. Foremost among these is Lashkar e Toiba, widely regarded as the most daring of all the militant groups in Kashmir.

Whereas most separatist groups say they want to make Kashmir part of Pakistan, Lashkar goes several steps further, defining its agenda as the imposition of Islamic rule over all parts of India. It has an estimated hard core of 300 activists and runs training camps in Pakistan.

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