Curfew imposed after rebels killed in Kashmir
Authorities imposed a curfew yesterday in parts of Indian-administered Kashmir after three rebels were killed in a firefight with government forces, police said. The shootout overnight, west of the main city of Srinagar, comes amid high tension after suspected militants shot dead seven Hindu pilgrims and injured 19 others in the disputed Himalayan territory. Soldiers and counterinsurgency police cordoned off a neighborhood in Redbugh village late Tuesday after learning about the presence of armed rebels in a house, a police officer said.
“After the night-long standoff, all three militants were killed when they tried to break the cordon,” the officer said on condition of anonymity. “Their weapons and bodies have been recovered and identified as locals.” Fearing residents could pour onto the streets for the funerals of the slain rebels, authorities imposed a curfew in parts of Srinagar and erected checkpoints and blockades along main roads. Shopkeepers in Srinagar’s main commercial centre Lal Chowk shuttered their businesses for the day.
There is no suggestion the shootout was linked to the attack on a bus shuttling Hindus on an annual pilgrimage to a Himalayan cave revered as the abode of the god Shiva. Some officials have blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba, a pro-Pakistan militant group, for that attack but it has denied any role. Jitendra Singh, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, said police and security forces were still carrying out investigations. “No one should jump to any conclusion on the attack. Let us wait for the definite inferences and inputs,” he told reporters in Srinagar.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from British colonial rule in 1947 but both claim the former kingdom in its entirety. Rebel groups, including Lashkare-Taiba, have fought for decades roughly 500,000 soldiers deployed in the Indiancontrolled part of the disputed region, demanding independence or a merger with Pakistan. The fighting has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead. Armed encounters between rebels and government forces have become more frequent since the killing of a hugely popular militant leader last July, which prompted dozens of local youth to join the rebel ranks. —AFP
SRINAGAR: Kashmiri people carry the body of a local rebel Aqib Ahmad during his funeral procession in Srinagar, Kashmir. —AP