SRINAGAR: Twenty people were killed in India-held Kashmir in some of the fiercest clashes this year in the region, police said on Sunday, as authorities braced for more violence.
Thirteen Kashmiris described by Indian authorities as militants and three Indian soldiers died in several clashes south of Srinagar.
Another four Kashmiris were killed and scores of others injured when police opened fire on thousands of demonstrators who poured onto the streets, throwing stones and chanting slogans against Indian occupation.
In Islamabad, Pakistan condemned the brutal and indiscriminate use of force by the Indian forces.
Troops used tear gas and pellet guns to disperse the crowd, and later opened fire. Most of the injured sustained pellet wounds, but six had gunshot wounds, said S.P. Vaid, the director general of police in India-held Kashmir.
Local residents put the number of injured at over 50.
Thousands of Kashmiris hit the streets, raising anti-India slogans and demanding an end to Indian rule over the region as troops launched “anti-militant” operations in three southern villages.
By the time authorities handed over the bodies of some of the suspected militants to their families, tens of thousands had gathered to attend their funerals while shouting slogans like “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom”.
Vaid said the army received information on Saturday night about suspected militants hiding in an area near Dragad village in Shopian district, about 50km south of Srinagar.
Thousands attend funerals; Pakistan says the killing spree has exposed the state-terrorism perpetrated by India
In Dragad, seven bodies of suspected militants were recovered, including ‘top commanders’. “They were killed in a gun battle,” Vaid said, adding that the owner of the house in which they were trapped was also killed.
While eight of the dead were identified as local cadres of the area’s largest militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen, troops were still clearing off the rubble of a destroyed house at a third gun battle site where bodies of three suspected militants lay, Vaid said.
The area residents said soldiers blasted several civilian homes with explosives while fighting the suspected militants.
Another suspected militant was killed in Dialgam village in Anantnag district, while one was arrested, Vaid said.
Two Indian soldiers and one civilian were killed in another gun battle in Kachdoora village, where a battle with a separate group of four to five suspected militants was ongoing, Vaid said.
Train services to southern Kashmir have been suspended as a precautionary measure, a railways official said, and internet services in five districts have also been blocked.
In Pulwama district, the local administration imposed restrictions on the movement of people and vehicles to prevent any violence.
Officials ordered all schools and colleges closed on Monday to stop anti-India protests by the students.
Leaders who challenge India’s sovereignty over the disputed territory have called for a shutdown on Monday against the killings.
The Indian army’s chief in held Kashmir, Lt Gen A.K. Bhatt, warned the militants to give up their arms or they would be “neutralised.”
“Anybody who uses weapons (against the state) will be dealt with in the same manner we dealt with the terrorists today,” Bhatt told reporters.
Top separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said Sunday’s violence was “more havoc for Kashmiris, who are at the receiving end of execution and repression.”
“Kashmiris will continue to die or be forced to pick up arms for resistance as long as India addresses the political and humanitarian problem of Kashmir through a military approach and through force,” he said.—Agencies
Kashif Abbasi adds from Islamabad: Pakistan condemned the brutal and indiscriminate use of force by the Indian occupation forces that resulted in death of young innocent Kashmiris in Shopian and Anantnag districts of India-held Kashmir.
“There are also reports of continuing brutal crackdown, especially the use of pellet guns on protesters, including youth and children, and the suspension of internet services, in an attempt to subjugate and further repress the innocent Kashmiris,” read a statement issued by Foreign Office in Islamabad on Sunday.
Foreign Office spokesman Dr Faisal said in the statement that this mindless killing spree had exposed, yet again, the ugly, inhuman face of the state-terrorism that India had been perpetrating against the Kashmiris for decades.
Attacks on S. Arabia condemned
In another statement, the Foreign Office condemned the latest ballistic missile attacks on Saudi Arabia.
The statement reads: “Pakistan strongly condemns the latest Houthi ballistic missile attacks on Saudi cities. The government of Saudi Arabia has taken timely action for destroying this missile and several others that have been directed against the kingdom in recent days. Such missiles are increasingly threatening innocent lives and (such attacks) must cease.
“Pakistan reiterates its full support and solidarity with Saudi Arabia against any threats to its territorial integrity and against the Haramain Sharifain.”
Published in Dawn, April 2nd, 2018