SRINAGAR: Two separate gun battles in India-held Kashmir on Thursday left eight people dead including six pro-independence fighters, police said.
A gunfight broke out before dawn when government forces besieged a residential area in the city of Pulwama after being told about the presence of fighters.
Police said that fighters fired at the soldiers and a young man, in whose house they were hiding, was killed in the crossfire. A soldier was also killed in the clash.
“After the security forces retaliated, three ... were killed in the ensuing encounter and their bodies retrieved,” a police statement said, referring to the fighters.
The slain men reportedly belonged to the Jaish-e-Mohammad group. The dead civilian’s brother was also wounded during the gun battle.
Soldiers surrounded an orchard in neighbouring Shopian district where a group of fighters were hiding, sparking another fierce gun battle that lasted hours and ended with the martyrdom of three fighters.
All the three fighters found in the orchard were killed in the encounter, said regional inspector general of police Swayam Prakash Pani.
He said both the shootouts were a result of operations.
Yet another gun battle broke out in the forests of frontier Kupwara area near the heavily militarised Line of Control but no casualties were reported in that incident.
Armed groups have for decades fought against Indian soldiers deployed in the part of Kashmir controlled by New Delhi, seeking the Himalayan territory’s merger with Pakistan or outright independence.
The conflict has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians.
At least 83 fighters have been martyred in armed clashes with Indian forces so far this year. Last year was the deadliest in a decade when around 600 were killed including soldiers, fighters and civilians.
Meanwhile, the Joint Resistance Leadership, composed of three top leaders who challenge India’s sovereignty over Kashmir, called for a protest strike on Friday, saying there has been no letup in the bloodshed even in the holy month of Ramazan “as civilians, armed youth or even Indian forces are getting killed”.
“In one manner or the other, Kashmiris continue to pay the price of the unresolved Kashmir issue,” they said in a statement. “Use of force against them continues unabated.”
Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2019