At least 9 dead after suspected militants in Kashmir fire at Hindu pilgrims, sending bus into gorge

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Suspected militants in Indian-controlled Kashmir's Jammu province fired at a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims on Sunday and at least nine were killed after the vehicle fell into a deep gorge, officials said.

The bus was carrying pilgrims to the base camp of the famed Hindu temple Mata Vaishno Devi when it came under attack in the region's Reasi district, senior administrative officer Vishesh Mahajan said.

A police officer said some of the victims had gunshot wounds and blamed the attack on Muslim militants who are fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which also left 33 others injured.

The police officer spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to talk to reporters.

Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for Kashmir’s independence or merger with neighboring Pakistan. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

New Delhi insists the Kashmir militancy is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle.

Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.

Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the territory in its entirety.