SRINAGAR, INDIA: Two separate gun battles between rebels and government forces in restive Indian-administered Kashmir on Thursday left eight dead including six suspected rebels, police said.
A firefight broke out before dawn when government forces besieged a residential area in the city of Pulwama after being told about the presence of anti-India insurgents.
Police said that militants fired at the soldiers and a young man, in whose house the militants were hiding, was killed in the crossfire.
“After the security forces retaliated, three terrorists were killed in the ensuing encounter and their bodies retrieved,“ a police statement said, referring to the suspected rebels.
The slain militants belonged to Pakistan based Jaishe-e-Mohammad militant group, two of whom were locals while the other was a Pakistani citizen, the statement added.
The dead civilian’s brother was also wounded during the gun battle.
Soldiers surrounded an orchard in neighbouring Shopian district where a group of rebels were hiding, sparking another fierce gun battle that lasted hours and ended with the deaths of three militants.
“All the three terrorists found in the orchard were killed in the encounter,“ regional inspector general of police Swayam Prakash Pani told AFP.
Pani said both the shootouts were a result of deliberate “counter-terrorist operations”.
Yet another gun battle broke out in the forests of frontier Kupwara area near the heavily militarised Line of Control that divides the disputed region between India and Pakistan, a police officer said. No casualties were reported in that incident.
Rebel groups have for decades fought against Indian soldiers deployed in the part of Kashmir controlled by New Delhi, seeking the Himalayan territory’s merger with Pakistan or outright independence.
The conflict has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians.
At least 83 rebels have been killed in armed clashes with Indian forces so far this year.
Last year was the deadliest in a decade when around 600 were killed including soldiers, rebels and civilians.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British rule of the subcontinent in 1947. Both claim the territory in full.
New Delhi regularly blames Pakistan for helping the rebels, an allegation denied by Islamabad, which says it only provides moral and diplomatic support to a Kashmiri struggle for right to self-determination. — AFP