The men sat in a circle, palms raised and eyes closed, while a visiting Muslim religious leader murmured an Arabic prayer for the dead.

The dead numbered seven in all, victims of cross-border mortar shelling last Sunday by Indian forces against the village of Mangla in Pakistan's portion of Kashmir. One was a man named Rajah Riaz, who had just returned home from his job as a driver in Saudi Arabia to attend the double wedding of a son and a daughter.

"All our relatives had gathered for the ceremonies. We had a wonderful time, but it was over so soon," said his newlywed daughter, Uzma, 21, who was huddled in a separate mourning chamber with the other women.

More than 25,000 people who fled the Mangla area since last Sunday are now living in tents and schoolrooms in Bhimbar, about 20 miles from the line of control that separates the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir, a Himalayan territory that both countries have claimed for more than 50 years.

Indian forces, which last week launched airstrikes to drive out several hundred Muslim insurgents hiding in the mountainous Kargil region of Indian Kashmir, have also been shelling across parts of the 450-mile border. More than 25 Pakistani civilians have been reported killed.

India claims the infiltrators include Afghan mercenaries and are backed by the Pakistani army; Pakistan claims the rebels are home-grown Kashmiri freedom fighters for whom the government provides only moral support.

[On Saturday, the two countries failed to agree on a date for peace talks. Pakistan's offer to send Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz to New Delhi on Monday "is not convenient," said Raminder Singh Jassal, an Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman. India would suggest alternative dates, he said.]

The mood among the men of Mangla was somber but angry. After their prayers, even middle-aged teachers and merchants muttered about revenge and taking up arms against the Indian troops in southern Kashmir.

"Freedom is our right, and we will fight for it," vowed shopkeeper Mohamed Amir, 48, at a prayer circle for another villager. "One is never too old for that."

Rashid Turabi, a Kashmir state legislator from the fundamentalist Jamaat Islami Party who was touring the affected area, said younger men and boys from the area were even more adamant about joining the armed campaign against Indian control. Two large student rallies were held this week in Muzaffarabad, the region's capital.

"The youths are coming to us and demanding training and arms. They want to go fight," he said, describing Kashmiris as a "martial people" who had fought against India as recently as 1971 as well as joining guerrillas in Afghanistan for their decade-long fight against Soviet occupation. "If this situation continues, it will be hard to control their emotions."

About a hundred miles away, in a nondescript house in Islamabad, officials of one Kashmiri militant group, Lashkar-e-Tayyba, described how the group has been recruiting teenagers from Indian Kashmir, providing them with military and religious training in clandestine camps in Pakistan and sending them back over the border to fight.

They described the infiltration of Kargil, which required months of extra high-altitude training, as the most ambitious operation since the insurgency began a decade ago. They said their men were hunkered in mountain caves, largely impervious to Indian airstrikes but frequently suffering from frostbite.

"We have been planning since last year, and we started when the snow began to melt" in early April, said Abdullah Muntazir, 23, a spokesman for Lashkar, one of four rebel groups that claim to be operating inside Indian Kashmir. Lashkar is affiliated with a radical Muslim organization that has been labeled a terrorist group by the State Department.

Muntazir insisted that Pakistan has not provided their weapons -- which include shoulder-fired missiles and antiaircraft guns -- and said they all had been captured from the Indian army or Soviet forces in Afghanistan.

A dozen barefoot teenage boys huddled around Muntazir. Most had received three weeks of training in basic weaponry and Koranic verse and were waiting to be sent to special camps for a three-month course in sabotage, ambush and remote-control land mine detonation.

"Some of them are still at the age of playing, but instead we must fight," Muntazir said. "The Koran says that if you kill one non-Muslim infidel in the battlefield, you will be assured of a place in heaven."

The young Lashkar guerrillas in Islamabad all spoke in the Kashmiri dialect, and all said they had crossed into Pakistan from their homes in Indian Kashmir to join the holy war against troops who have occupied their region since 1947, when the independent countries of India and Pakistan were carved out of British colonial India. Their voices were young and soft, but their hatred was deep and palpable.

"I was tired of being harassed and slapped by the soldiers every day on the way to class, just because I was a Muslim. I became emotional and decided to take revenge," said a 19-year-old who gave his name as Abu Umar. He said he fled his Kashmiri town in 1996 and joined the insurgents here.

Abu Muslim, 20, said he had participated in about 25 hit-and-run strikes against Indian troops in the past two years, and he recounted one incident with special pride: hiding in a pine tree and detonating a land mine under a column of 15 soldiers who were marching between two mountain camps.

"I pushed the button, and they all flew into the air. I was happy in my heart that we had killed so many," he said with a shy smile. Last week, Abu Muslim said he returned from a recruiting trip to Indian Kashmir and brought back 16 more boys for training.

CAPTION: Uzma Riaz, 21, mourns her father, Rajah, who was killed by cross-border shelling after returning from his job in Saudi Arabia to attend her wedding.