By Zahid Rafiq
SRINAGAR, Jammu Kashmir, India (AA): Eight people, including four Indian army soldiers and four pro-independence militants were killed in two separate gunbattles in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday, police officials said.
In the first gunbattle, a militant and three Indian soldiers were killed in Bandipora district’s Hajin area in the morning. Eleven persons including five army men – one of them a Major – one CRPF officer, 4 policemen and a civilian were injured during the gun-battle.
An official said that joint team of 13 and 31 RR, CRPF and police cordoned off Parr Mohalla locality of Hajin in the wee hours after inputs about the presence of two militants in a residential house.
Sources said that as the cordon was being laid, hundreds of people started marching towards the cordoned area to help the militants flee.
“Early on Tuesday morning a joint team of army, paramilitary and police launched an operation in Parray Mohalla of Hajin after receiving inputs about the presence of militants,” a police official said on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media.
“During the ensuing gunfight three army men and a militant were killed. The operation has been called off,” the official added.
Later, another gunbattle in Handwara border town left three militants and an Indian army major killed, police added.
Tuesday’s gunbattles came two days after four militants, two civilians and two Indian soldiers were killed in south Kashmir, sparking pro-independence demonstrations that were put down by Indian forces with live ammunition and pellet guns, wounding more than two dozen people.
The disputed region has seen renewed protests and attacks following the killing of a popular militant commander in July last year. At least 100 civilians have been killed in the subsequent crackdown by Indian authorities, according to health officials.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
The two countries have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965 and 1971 – since they were partitioned in 1947, two of which were fought over Kashmir.
Kashmiri resistance groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan. More than 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989. India maintains more than half a million troops in the disputed region.
Additional reporting by The Muslim News
[Archive Photo: Jammu and Kashmir Indian paramilitary soldiers outside Govt building where militants were holed up in Pampore area near Srinagar on 21 February 2016. Photographer: Faisal Khan/AA]