Two civilians killed during firefight in Indian Kashmir

 01 Jul 2017 - 13:51

Two civilians killed during firefight in Indian Kashmir
File Photo: Reuters.

AFP

Srinagar, India: Two civilians, including a woman, and two rebels were killed and six other people wounded during a firefight between rebels and government forces in Indian-administered Kashmir on Saturday, police and hospital authorities said.

The gun battle broke out after soldiers and special counterinsurgency police forces surrounded a neighbourhood in the southern Dialgam village, acting on a tip off that armed militants were hiding in the area.

"The lady was killed while we were laying a cordon," Inspector General of police Muneer Ahmed Khan told AFP.

The fighting ended when the two militants were killed, the local director general of police SP Vaid told AFP.

The militants had a few villagers in the building with them, and police officials said they were using them as human shields.

Witnesses disputed that, saying that local residents went to the house where the rebels were holed up to help them as the soldiers arrived in the area.

"They (the civilians) told the soldiers from inside the house that either let the rebels go or kill us as well," said a resident of Dialgam who declined to give his name.

As gunshots were heard in the area hundreds of villagers came out on to the streets shouting anti-India slogans and throwing stones at soldiers in their attempts to break the cordon and help the rebels escape.

Police said in a statement they rescued 17 people from the site of the gun battle but locals said the rebels, before being killed, let the civilians go.

Authorities cut off some mobile phone services in the area following the firefight.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947 but both claim the territory in its entirety.

Rebel groups have fought for decades roughly 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the disputed territory, demanding independence or merger of the Himalayan region with Pakistan.

The conflict has increasingly drawn in civilians, many of whom oppose Indian rule. Clashes between government forces and civilians have worsened since the death last July of Burhan Wani, a hugely popular rebel commander. His death anniversary next week is expected to escalate tension.

India last month deployed two additional army battalions -- about 2000 troops -- to troubled regions in the southern Kashmir area.