2 rebels killed in Kash­mir fire­fight


Two sus­pected rebels were killed and a civil­ian was crit­i­cally wounded in a shootout with gov­ern­ment forces in In­dian Kash­mir yes­ter­day, po­lice said, as ten­sions in the dis­puted ter­ri­tory ran high. A po­lice of­fi­cer was also crit­i­cally wounded in a sep­a­rate in­ci­dent in the In­dian-ad­min­is­tered part of the dis­puted Hi­malayan re­gion, which has seen a spike in vi­o­lence in re­cent months. The two mil­i­tants died in a fire­fight with sol­diers and spe­cial po­lice coun­terin­sur­gency forces who had cor­doned off a neigh­bor­hood in the south of the re­gion yes­ter­day. Hun­dreds of vil­lagers poured out onto the streets to try to help the trapped rebels es­cape, many throw­ing stones and shout­ing slo­gans against In­dian rule.

One was in­jured when gov­ern­ment forces fired into the crowd. “Two mil­i­tants were killed in the en­counter. Ac­cord­ing to our in­put one more is still fight­ing,” direc­tor gen­eral of po­lice S P Vaid said. An­other po­lice of­fi­cer speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity said all three fighters were lo­cals. In a sep­a­rate in­ci­dent fur­ther south in Anant­nag town mil­i­tants fired at a po­lice party in the lo­cal bus stand and crit­i­cally wounded an of­fi­cer, Vaid said. “We are evac­u­at­ing him from the area,” in­spec­tor gen­eral of po­lice Muneer Ahmed Khan said.

Kash­mir has seen a spike in vi­o­lence since the start of the Mus­lim fast­ing month of Ra­madan in late May, with 56 peo­ple killed in al­most daily clashes. Last week stone-throw­ing pro­test­ers clashed with gov­ern­ment forces in the main city of Sri­na­gar. Less than two weeks ago, a se­nior po­lice of­fi­cer was beaten to death by a crowd out­side one Sri­na­gar mosque. Kash­mir has been di­vided be­tween ri­vals In­dia and Pak­istan since the end of Bri­tish colo­nial rule in 1947 but both claim it in full. Rebel groups have for decades fought roughly 500,000 In­dian sol­diers de­ployed in the ter­ri­tory, de­mand­ing in­de­pen­dence or a merger of the re­gion with Pak­istan.

The con­flict has left tens of thou­sands dead since 1989, mostly civil­ians. Ten­sions are ex­pected to es­ca­late fur­ther ahead of the first an­niver­sary on Satur­day of the pop­u­lar rebel leader Burhan Wani who was killed by se­cu­rity forces. Of­fi­cials say dozens of lo­cal youths have joined the rebel ranks since his death, and armed en­coun­ters have be­come more fre­quent. The killing pro­voked a huge out­pour­ing of pub­lic anger in In­dian ad­min­is­tered Kash­mir that has drawn a grow­ing num­ber of civil­ians into the con­flict, with en­tire com­mu­ni­ties com­ing out to help the rebels and at­tack gov­ern­ment forces. —AFP

SRI­NA­GAR: Kash­miri vil­lagers bring a res­i­dent in­jured by In­dian se­cu­rity per­son­nel to the main hospi­tal in Sri­na­gar yes­ter­day. —AFP

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