Nine killed in Indian Kashmir gun battles
Five security personnel and four suspected militants have been killed in two gun battles in Indian-administered Kashmir, officials said Sunday.
Tensions are high in the restive Himalayan region contested with nuclear rival Pakistan after New Delhi scrapped Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status in early August, with flashes of violence reported regularly. Four army personnel, including two officers, a counterinsurgency policeman and two militants died after a firefight in the village of Changimul near the Line of Control that divides the disputed territory, said army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia.
They had entered a home to “to evacuate the civilians” but came under “heavy fire” from militants inside the building, Kalia added in the statement. It was unclear why the men had entered the house, with a police officer, who asked to remain anonymous, telling AFP they had “walked into an ambush”.
On Saturday, two suspected militants were killed by security forces in a brief shootout in the Pulwama area of the southern Kashmir valley, police said. At least 54 militants have been killed in Kashmir this year, including more than 30 since the start of the lockdown from late March, according to an AFP tally.
Early last month at least five Indian soldiers and nine militants were killed in two separate firefights over two days in the Kashmir valley. Near-daily cross-border firing between India and Pakistan in Kashmir has occurred regularly despite the pandemic and the ongoing Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Two Indian soldiers were killed in one such incident on Saturday, authorities said. Rebel groups have fought for decades for the Himalayan region’s independence or its merger with Pakistan. The fighting has left tens of thousands dead since 1989, mostly civilians. India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming and sending rebels across the heavily militarised border. Islamabad denies the claims.