SRINAGAR: At least five Indian soldiers and two armed men were killed on Monday in a series of gun battles in India-occupied Kashmir, where security forces have stepped up operations after several civilian killings in recent days.
In the deadliest incident for Indian forces in the Himalayan region this year, a military spokesman said four soldiers and one officer died in a shootout.
“They were moved to a nearby medical facility but succumbed to their injuries,” spokesman Lt Col Davinder Anand said.
“The operation is ongoing,” he added.
The Muslim-majority disputed region has been on the edge since the killing of three Hindus and a Sikh, including two teachers, last week which triggered a crackdown by Indian authorities.
Nearly 650 suspects have been picked up
In the northern part of the region, security forces shot dead a man and claimed the deceased was from The Resistance Front (TRF). The deceased was a suspect allegedly involved in the killing of a civilian driver and security forces had been looking for him after arresting four of his associates on Sunday, police chief Vijay Kumar claimed.
“He was shot dead this morning,” Kumar said.
In a separate incident, another armed man was killed in a gun battle in south Kashmir, added Kumar.
The shootings were the deadliest attack on military forces in the area since a ceasefire along the LoC announced in February.
Tensions have flared further in recent weeks with a spate of shootings of civilians in the area, with seven killed last week alone in attacks claimed by a new group against Indian occupation.
Some 650 residents suspected to have links with banned religious and armed groups have been detained following the shootings, a police source said.
“No stone will be left unturned to find the killers,” the senior police officer said.
Authorities say at least 29 civilians — including workers from pro-India political parties — have been shot dead in the disputed region this year, one of them by Indian forces.
The relatively new group, The Resistance Front, claimed responsibility for the seven killings and accused those killed of working for occupier mercenary forces and occupier stooges.
The statements, issued only in English, were circulated in numerous WhatsApp groups and could not be independently verified.
One of the two men killed on Monday was suspected of being involved, authorities said. His family told reporters that Indian soldiers picked him up on Sunday and then shot him while in their custody.
On Saturday, Human Rights Watch called for the perpetrators as well as Indian forces accused of abuses including harassment, torture and extrajudicial killings to be held accountable.
“Kashmiris are caught in unending violence from attacks by militants and abuses by government authorities and security forces,” HRW’s South Asia director Meenakshi Ganguly said in a statement.
Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2021