Kash­mir erupts as In­dian forces kill rebels

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - AP

SRI­NA­GAR: Large anti-In­dia protests and clashes spear­headed mostly by stu­dents broke out in dis­puted Kash­mir yes­ter­day after gov­ern­ment forces killed two se­nior mil­i­tants in a gun­bat­tle and fa­tally shot a protester at a demon­stra­tion de­mand­ing an end to In­dian rule.

The protests fol­low­ing the killings spread across the re­gion, after which au­thor­i­ties or­dered the clo­sure of ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions.

Po­lice In­spec­tor-General Muneer Ahmed Khan said the two mil­i­tants were killed after po­lice and sol­diers, act­ing on a tip, cor­doned off the south­ern Hakri­pora vil­lage early yes­ter­day. Khan said the mil­i­tants fired at the troops, trig­ger­ing a gun­bat­tle that lasted at least two hours.

Vil­lagers said troops blasted two civil­ian homes with ex­plo­sives. As the gun­bat­tle raged, res­i­dents de­fied the se­cu­rity lock­down and clashed with gov­ern­ment forces near the site of the fight­ing in an at­tempt to help the trapped mil­i­tants es­cape.

A young man was killed and scores of oth­ers were in­jured in the clashes in the vil­lage.

Large protests and clashes against In­dian rule spread to sev­eral other places across Kash­mir, in­clud­ing the Himalayan re­gion’s main city of Sri­na­gar, as stu­dents boy­cotted classes and hit the streets.

Chant­ing pro-rebel slo­gans and de­mand­ing the end of In­dian rule, they hurled rocks at gov­ern­ment forces. Troops fired shot­gun pel­lets and tear­gas, lead­ing to pitched bat­tles, in­clud­ing in Sri­na­gar’s main com­mer­cial hub, where streets were strewn with rocks and bro­ken bricks, and the stench of tear­gas filled the air. Dozens were in­jured and also in sub­se­quent clashes.

Au­thor­i­ties closed all ed­u­ca­tional in­sti­tu­tions yes­ter­day and to­day as a “pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure”, said civil­ian ad­min­is­tra­tor Baseer Khan.

Of­fi­cials also blocked the in­ter­net ser­vice in the re­gion to stop ac­tivists from us­ing so­cial me­dia to rally sup­port against In­dian rule.

Sep­a­ratist lead­ers, who chal­lenge In­dia’s sovereignty over Kash­mir, called for a shut­down to­day to protest the killings.

Po­lice de­scribed one of the slain mil­i­tants as a top com­man­der of the Pak­istan-based mil­i­tant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and iden­ti­fied him as Abu Du­jana. In­dia blames the group for a 2008 at­tack that killed 166 peo­ple in Mum­bai.

Khan de­scribed the rebel com­man­der’s death as “good rid­dance to a nui­sance” and said coun­terin­sur­gency op­er­a­tions would con­tinue de­spite civil­ian protests.

In re­cent years, Kash­miris, mainly youths, have dis­played open sol­i­dar­ity with anti-In­dia rebels and sought to pro­tect them by en­gag­ing troops in street clashes dur­ing mil­i­tary op­er­a­tions against the mil­i­tants. The anti-In­dia protests and clashes have per­sisted, de­spite the In­dian army chief warn­ing re­cently that “tough ac­tion” would be taken against stone throw­ers dur­ing counter-in­sur­gency op­er­a­tions.

Nu­clear-armed ri­vals In­dia and Pak­istan each ad­min­is­ter part of Kash­mir, but both claim the Himalayan ter­ri­tory in its en­tirety. Rebel groups have been fight­ing since 1989 for the In­dian-ad­min­is­tered por­tion to be­come in­de­pen­dent or merge with Pak­istan.

Nearly 70 000 peo­ple have died in the up­ris­ing and the en­su­ing In­dian mil­i­tary crack­down.

Anti-In­dia sen­ti­ment runs deep in Kash­mir’s mostly Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion and most peo­ple sup­port the rebels’ cause against In­dian rule.

PIC­TURE: AP

Kash­miri vil­lagers shower flower petals over the body of se­nior mil­i­tant Arif Nabi Dar, dur­ing his fu­neral in Lil­har in In­dian-con­trolled Kash­mir, yes­ter­day.

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