At least 22 Hindu villagers were killed and eight others critically wounded in a militant massacre in village Kalhan in Doda district of Jammu region.
A senior police officer told rediff.com that a group of heavily armed militants swooped in on Kalhan late Sunday night and gathered the Hindu villagers in the house of the village headman.
"The militants opened indiscriminate fire at the unarmed villagers huddled inside the house. 22 villagers died on the spot while eight others were critically wounded. The injured have been airlifted to Jammu for specialised treatment," Jammu range police chief inspector general of police Dr S P Vaid said.
He said troops of 8 Rashtriya Rifles and police have reached the spot and a massive hunt has been launched to hunt down the killers.
High tension gripped Doda and adjoining areas as the news about the killings spread on Monday morning. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the massacre.
The killings came hours after police found the bodies of four abducted villagers at Basantgrah in neighbouring Udhampur district Sunday afternoon.
Condemning the strike, Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kasmhir Muzaffar Baig said the attack was against the Indo-Pak peace process. "By singling out Hindus for such a major massacre, they are sending a message to the entire Indian nation that this exercise (peace process) undertaken by the government is futile," he said.
It was also aimed at spoiling the environment for the second roundtable conference convened by the prime minister later this month, he added.
Union Minister of State for Home Sriprakash Jaiswal said in Delhi that the attack was born out of frustration by the militants over Jammu and Kashmir's gradual return to normalcy. The last major attack against minorities in the state was in 2003, when militants gunned down 24 Kashmiri Pundits in Nadimarg village near Shopian in Pulwama district.
With PTI inputs