In­dian Air Force com­man­dos, among 4 killed in Kash­mir


SRI­NA­GAR: Two In­dian Air Force com­man­dos and two rebels were killed on Wednesday in a fierce gun­bat­tle in the dis­puted re­gion of Kash­mir, of­fi­cials said.

Sol­diers be­gan an anti-mil­i­tant op­er­a­tion by cor­don­ing off north­ern Ha­jjin town on a tip that rebels were hid­ing in the area, said Col. Ra­jesh Kalia, an In­dian Army spokesman. He said the deaths oc­curred in the en­su­ing in­tense fight­ing.

It is the first time the In­dian Army has said that air force per­son­nel were par­tic­i­pat­ing in ground com­bat against rebels in Kash­mir.

Kalia said the two air force com­man­dos “were op­er­at­ing with the army for oper­a­tional ex­pe­ri­ence and train­ing.”

In 1990, at least four air force of­fi­cers were killed in an am­bush by Kash­miri rebels, but they were not par­tic­i­pat­ing in any op­er­a­tion.

Street clashes erupted in Ha­jjin shortly after the fight­ing ended as hun­dreds of res­i­dents de­manded an end to In­dian rule in Kash­mir. Gov­ern­ment forces fired tear gas and shot­gun pel­lets to quell the rock-throw­ing pro­test­ers.

Pro­test­ers later marched in the town car­ry­ing the body of one of the dead mil­i­tants. They chanted anti-India and pro-rebel slo­gans while women sang dirges.

Mean­while, po­lice said they have de­tained two Kash­miri po­lice­men for al­legedly sup­ply­ing am­mu­ni­tion to rebels.

Po­lice Direc­tor-Gen­eral S.P. Vaid said the two de­tained of­fi­cers are be­ing ques­tioned after am­mu­ni­tion was re­cov­ered from them.

After the out­break of an anti-India armed re­bel­lion in Kash­mir in 1989, po­lice, in­clud­ing lo­cal of­fi­cers, ini­tially fought against it. How­ever, within a few years, most Kash­miri po­lice aban­doned the task and stayed at their posts and bar­racks after rebels be­gan tar­get­ing their fam­i­lies. Dozens even joined the rebel ranks, ris­ing to be­come mil­i­tant com­man­ders, in­clud­ing one for­mer po­lice con­sta­ble who was killed in a gun­bat­tle last year.

Nu­clear-armed ri­vals India and Pak­istan each ad­min­is­ter part of Kash­mir, but both claim the Hi­malayan ter­ri­tory in its en­tirety. Rebel groups de­mand that Kash­mir be united ei­ther un­der Pak­istani rule or as an in­de­pen­dent coun­try.

India ac­cuses Pak­istan of arm­ing and train­ing the rebels, which Pak­istan de­nies.

Anti-India sen­ti­ment runs deep in Kash­mir’s mostly Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion and most peo­ple sup­port the rebels’ cause while also par­tic­i­pat­ing in civil­ian street protests against In­dian con­trol.

Nearly 70,000 peo­ple have been killed in the up­ris­ing and the en­su­ing In­dian mil­i­tary crack­down.

Kash­miri vil­lagers clash with gov­ern­ment forces in Ha­jin, 38 km north of Sri­na­gar, In­dian con­trolled Kash­mir, on Wednesday. (AP)

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