SRINAGAR: Two suspected Kashmiri fighters were killed in a shootout with Indian security personnel here on Wednesday, police said, describing one of them as a former journalist.

The exchange of gunfire erupted after police and paramilitary soldiers laid a cordon in a neighbourhood in the old quarters of Srinagar on Tuesday night following a tip that two fighters were hiding there, Inspector-General Vijay Kumar told reporters.

Kumar said the two fighters were killed in the ensuing shootout early on Wednesday.

He said one of them had been a journalist running a news portal in India-held Kashmir and joined “militant” ranks last year.

Police identified him as Rayees Ahmad Bhat. They alleged two FIRs had been registered against him.

The second man was identified as Hilal Ah Rah of Bijbehara, they said.

Police tweeted a photograph of a press ID card they said was found on Bhat’s body and claimed the incident indicated “a clear case of misuse of media”.

Kumar asked journalists to follow the Press Council of India guidelines and warned police would act if “violations” continued.

There was no independent confirmation of the police claim, however.

The incident comes as journalists have faced relentless pressure since India revoked the disputed region’s semi-autonomy in 2019.

Dozens have been arrested, interrogated and investigated under harsh anti-terror laws. Fearing reprisals, the local press has largely wilted under pressure.

Fighters in occupied Kashmir have been fighting New Delhi’s rule over the disputed region since 1989. Most Kashmiris support the activists’ goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Tens of thousands of civilians, combatants and government forces have been killed in the conflict.

Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2022

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