SRINAGAR: Five Indian security personnel and four suspected Kashmiri fighters have been killed in two gunfights in occupied Kashmir, officials said on Sunday.
Tensions are high in the disputed Himalayan region after New Delhi scrapped its semi-autonomous status in early August, with flashes of violence reported regularly.
Four Indian army personnel, including two officers, a counterinsurgency policeman and two Kashmiri fighters died in a gunfight in the village of Changimul, near the Line of Control that divides the disputed territory, said army spokesman Col Rajesh Kalia.
The security men had entered a house “to evacuate the civilians” but came under “heavy fire” from fighters inside the building, Col Kalia added in the statement.
It was unclear why the men had entered the house, with a police officer, who asked to remain anonymous, saying they had “walked into an ambush”.
A gunfight began when troops entered a house to ‘evacuate civilians’
The officer said an army colonel and a major along with a police officer and two other soldiers tried to storm the house when they were gunned down by the Kashmiri fighters.
He said the reinforcement of special forces was called in and they shot dead the two fighters but other two likely escaped.
Meanwhile, at least eight civilians, including three young children and a teenage boy, were injured on Sunday in a blast caused by an explosive device just a few kilometres from a gunfight site, police said.
Police were investigating whether the device was a leftover shell from the site of earlier gunfight.
On Saturday, two suspected fighters were killed by security forces in a brief shootout in the Pulwama area of the occupied Kashmir valley, police said.
At least 54 fighters have died in occupied Kashmir this year, including more than 30 since the start of the lockdown in late March, according to a tally.
Early last month at least five Indian soldiers and nine militants were killed in two separate gunfights over two days in the occupied valley.
Near-daily cross-LoC firing between India and Pakistan in occupied Kashmir has occurred regularly despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing fasting month of Ramazan.
Armed groups have fought for decades for the disputed Himalayan region’s independence or its merger with Pakistan. The fighting has left tens of thousands dead since 1989, mostly civilians.
Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2020