Indian government forces killed five suspected fighters, including a teenager, in gunfights in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK), police said on Sunday.
The back-to-back clashes began late on Saturday after troops cordoned off two villages in southern IoK’s Shopian and Bijbehara areas on intelligence that pro-independence Kashmiri fighters were hiding there, police said.
Three fighters were killed and two soldiers wounded in Shopian, Inspector General Vijay Kumar told reporters, and said troops had recovered a rifle and a pistol from the site.
One of the slain fighters was a teenage boy who, according to officials, had joined the ranks of pro-independence fighters a few days earlier. Kumar said several attempts were made to seek the trapped fighters’ surrender but they had refused.
Indian forces killed two more Kashmiri fighters in the second clash in Bijbehara, Kumar said.
At least 15 fighters, a policeman and an army soldier have been killed so far this month.
In December last year, police in Indian-occupied Kashmir had charged a captain of the Indian army and his two accomplices for killing three local labourers and passing them as militants. In a charge sheet filed in a local court, police said the captain had staged a gunfight in South Kashmir on July 8, earlier the same year, to make it appear like a clash with militants.
In a surprising decision in February, India and Pakistan had agreed to reaffirm their 2003 cease-fire accord along the de facto frontier dividing Kashmir between the two sides. However, a crackdown by Indian forces and attacks by pro-independence Kashmiri fighters have continued inside the Indian-held portion.
Both countries claim the divided territory in its entirety. Many Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.