New Delhi (CNSNews.com) - U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca has strongly condemned a deadly suicide attack in Indian-controlled Kashmir, saying Washington was determined to crush terrorism in all its forms.
"On behalf of my country, I condemn unequivocally the terrorist attack ... it is this type of terrorism and barbarism that the U.S. is determined to stamp out," she said as she extended her sympathy to the victims' families.
Thirty-four people, including women and children, were killed when three gunmen opened fire on a bus and stormed a nearby army post, just hours after Rocca arrived in India.
Rocca's spokesperson said the purpose of her visit was to encourage dialogue between India and Pakistan. The U.S., she said, was concerned about "the potential for unintended conflict" in South Asia.
Muslim militants fighting Indian rule in part of Kashmir have long drawn their support from Pakistan, and the killings are expected to further strain tensions between the two rivals.
India on Tuesday again ruled out talks with Pakistan. "We don't see any scope for dialogue until [Pakistan] takes action on our demands, including our list of 20 terrorists," External affairs ministry spokeswoman Nirupama Rao said.
Following a terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament last December, which India blamed on Pakistan, Delhi demanded the handover of 20 terror suspects. Pakistan has refused to do that, instead taking other action against militants, including bans on several organizations.
Rao said India's concern regarding the situation in the region had been conveyed to Rocca, who shared its assessment of the region. "The U.S. is fully aware of India's concerns and understands our rationale."
From Delhi, Rocca visits Pakistan, where she will hold talks with President Pervez Musharraf.
In Pakistan, she is expected to hear the argument that Pakistan is unable to provide more help to the U.S. in its war against terror unless India eases tensions along their joint border.
Troops from both countries have been amassed along the border since last December's attack.
Pakistan Tuesday condemned the attack, noting that incidents of this type tended to coincide with the visit of a senior official to the region.
"Such incidents warrant an impartial and comprehensive inquiry to unmask the motives of their perpetrators," the country's foreign ministry said in a statement.
Indian Home Minister L.K. Advani told parliament that a group called Al-Mansoorian had claimed responsibility for the attack. It is believed to be a new name used by Lashkar-e-Taiba, one of the groups banned by Musharraf earlier this year.
Advani said the incident appeared to have been timed to demonstrate to the world that despite the anti-terrorism campaign, terrorists were not likely to be cowed.
New Delhi based analyst Rajeev Sharma said Wednesday it could not be a coincidence that attacks of this nature occur "every time a U.S. dignitary visits India or Pakistan."
The aim of the perpetrators, he said, could to be show that Musharraf was in no better position to stop militancy in Kashmir than he had been able to prevent al Qaeda and Taliban fighters from slipping into Pakistan from Afghanistan.
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