SRINAGAR: An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard near closed shops after four fighters were killed by government forces in India-held Kashmir on Monday.—AFP
SRINAGAR: An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard near closed shops after four fighters were killed by government forces in India-held Kashmir on Monday.—AFP

SRINAGAR: Four fighters were killed by government forces in Indian occupied Kashmir on Monday just hours after five fighters died in a firefight in the same area, officials said, as deadly clashes increase in the restive valley.

Such armed encounters are frequent in the disputed Himalayan region, but the fighting has intensified with at least 85 fighters and dozens of government forces killed this year.

In the latest incident, soldiers cordoned a village in southern Shopian area in the early hours of Monday morning after a tip-off from police, army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said. A firefight broke out and four fighters were killed, he added.

Soldiers also blew up at least one home, another police officer and locals said.

An army officer, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said three soldiers were wounded in the confrontation.

Hundreds of villagers rallied in support of the fighters, throwing stones and shouting slogans against Indian rule as the firefight raged, a police officer and locals said.

On Sunday, five fighters were killed after Indian soldiers and counterinsurgency police cordoned off Reban village in Shopian.

Meanwhile, Pakistan strongly condemned the unabated extra-judicial killings of Kashmiri youths in acts of state-terrorism perpetrated by the Indian occupation forces in the held valley. It said Indian forces had martyred nine more Kashmiri youths during the last 24 hours in fake encounters and so-called cordon-and-search operations in Shopian.

“It is the responsibility of the world community to urgently act and protect the Kashmiris from the wanton killings and other brutalities being inflicted on them by the Indian occupation forces. Pakistan will continue to call for holding India accountable for its crimes against the Kashmiri people,” a Foreign Office spokesperson said in a press release.

Several houses in the Shopian area were also destroyed and pellet guns and tear gas were used against innocent Kashmiri men, women and children who took to the streets to protest against the Indian brutalities.

“Infliction of such collective punishment to the community is tantamount to crimes against humanity. It is highly reprehensible that while the world community is grappling with Covid-19 pandemic, India remains busy intensifying its brutalisation of the Kashmiri people,” the FO said.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2020