Manmohan Singh, India's prime minister, has visited Indian-administered Kashmir a day after eight soldiers were killed in an attack by separatist fighters in the region.

Shops and other businesses, along with schools, banks and offices were closed throughout Srinagar, the capital of the volatile region, after separatist groups called a strike to protest the visit by the Indian prime minister.

Police and paramilitary forces deployed in strength across the region for the visit, including in Srinagar.

Government forces were enforcing curfew-like restrictions in the volatile and congested old town in Srinagar.

"We are confined to our homes whenever a politician from Delhi visits our Kashmir," a resident of the area said by phone, adding that he was not able to leave his neighbourhood for work.

Singh, who is being accompanied by Sonia Gandhi, the president of the ruling Congress party, visited the wounded soldiers at an army base hospital.

Hizbul Mujahideen, a local pro-Pakistan militant, group claimed responsibility for the attack, and warned of more such attacks.

'United against terrorism'

We are confined to our homes whenever a politician from Delhi visits our Kashmir

A resident in Srinagar,

Speaking to Indian media after landing in the southern town of Kishtwar as part of the two-day trip, Singh said his country was "united against terrorism".

"We won't let them succeed in their nefarious designs," he said.

The prime minister also stressed in a speech that violence "had shown a sharp decline and was the lowest in last two decades", the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Monday's attack, which also left 13 wounded, was the bloodiest in a series of attacks since India hanged a separatist in February.

Separatist groups have been fighting Indian forces since 1989 for the region's independence or its merger with Pakistan and tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians have died in the fighting.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, both of which claim all of the territory.

Armed rebel groups have escalated attacks on security forces since March, killing 27 security personnel so far.