SRINAGAR: Police and troops killed five suspected rebels in an overnight gun battle yesterday in a forested area of northern Kashmir, triggering anti-India protests by local residents, police said.
Police and an army contingent began a joint operation around midnight near the Najwan forests, 35 kilometres north of Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
“The group of militants was leaving one forest area for another when we intercepted and challenged them. All the five were killed in the ensuing firefight,” superintendent of police Shahid Meraj said.
He said all five rebels had come from Pakistan-administered Kashmir around a year earlier and belonged to Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest Kashmiri militant group fighting Indian forces in the region.
Militants are threatening a surge in attacks on Indian targets as battle-hardened fighters from Afghanistan prepare to target the region, according to rebel leaders on the Pakistan side.
During the last two months, the Indian army claims to have killed 28 rebels in gun battles in northern Kashmir.
Hundreds of residents gathered in the area after yesterday’s deaths chanting “We want freedom” after the bodies of the five men were handed over to them for burial.
In a separate incident yesterday night, the army claimed to have thwarted a bid by an unknown number of rebels to infiltrate from across the LoC in Akhnoor, 340km southwest of Srinagar.
According to the Indian army attempts by rebels to infiltrate into Indian Kashmir this summer have more than doubled compared to the same period last year.