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Kashmir tourist center attacked

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Militants attack a tourist reception center in the Kashmiri city of Srinagar.
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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- One of a handful of militants who attacked a tourist reception center in the Kashmiri city of Srinagar has been shot dead by police.

Wednesday's attack was the latest violence in Kashmir, a disputed region whose status has prompted hostilities over the years between India and Pakistan.

The attack is thought to have been prompted by Thursday's expected inaugural historic bus run over the Line of Control between Srinagar, in Indian-controlled Kashmir, and Muzzafarabad in Pakistani-held Kashmir.

Four militant groups have claimed responsibility for the attack. No such bus services have run since the Kashmir dispute began in the mid-20th century, when modern India and Pakistan were formed.

Police say the groups are front organizations for well-known outfits fighting Indian rule in Kashmir.

According to police sources, two or three armed gunmen rode up on a motorbike to the entrance of the tourist center and opened fire.

Law officers, out in force because of militant threats on the bus run, returned fire and killed one of the militants. Gunfire was continuing Wednesday night, police said.

Two civilians were injured, police said.

A visibly shaken Ghulam Mohammad, one of the drivers of the Srinagar-Muzzafarabad bus, described the attack.

"As we were nearing the main entrance (to the tourism complex), the firing started," he told CNN.

"With great difficulty we negotiated the curve and under tight security took the bus to a nearby secure location."

Passengers who had purchased tickets for the bus ride were staying in safe houses because of the threats, and none of them appeared to be at the tourist center at the time of the attack. Twenty-nine people were due to travel on the bus.

Indian officials said the bus service, the first in more than half a century, will go ahead as planned on Thursday.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will inaugurate what has been described as the most significant peace gesture between the two arch-rivals in decades of hostility.

The Pakistan Foreign Office issued a statement condemning the attack.

"All they wanted to do," Pakistan Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri said of the passengers, "is to meet their loved ones from whom they have been separated."

India and Pakistan agreed to start the bus service to help families separated by the dispute to be reunited.

And even though the border posts will soon be open, there are still many twists and turns in the road to peace.

CNN's Suhasini Haidar in India, Syed Mohsin Naqvi in Pakistan and Mukhtar Ahmed in Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir contributed to this report.

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