Soldier shoots dead five colleagues, self in Indian Kashmir

February 27, 2014 - 8:13:58 am

SRINAGAR, India: A soldier in Indian Kashmir shot dead five of his colleagues in a military camp on Thursday before turning the gun on himself, an army spokesman said.

The counter-insurgency soldier was on duty in the early hours when he started firing on his colleagues in the camp in Safapora village, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of the region's main city of Srinagar.

"The soldier ran amok, killing five others before shooting himself dead in the camp in Ganderbal district," Lieutenant Colonel Narinder Nahar Joshi told AFP.

The soldier was a member of a counter-insurgency unit called the Rashtriya Rifles posted in the heavily militarised Himalayan region and charged with tracking down suspected militants.

Investigations were under way to determine what triggered the incident, including whether the soldier was suffering from stress.

A number of Indian soldiers and police deployed in the disputed state have been killed in similar incidents in the past.

Members of the security forces are often denied leave for long periods during tough counter-insurgency operations in the tense Muslim-majority region.

Indian forces have been fighting since 1989 some dozen rebel militant groups who want independence or merger of the territory with Pakistan. The fighting has left tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, dead.

In recent years, the army has attempted to help soldiers deal with stress, including by setting up helplines and yoga classes, as well as educating them about the signs of stress, through distribution of booklets.

Kashmir is divided and administered separately by India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both. The two countries have fought two wars since independence from Britain in 1947 over Kashmir.

In 2011, an Indian soldier killed four of his comrades after an altercation in a camp in Anantnag district of the region.

Such incidents have also been reported from India's insurgency-wracked northeast, with a soldier gunning down six of his fellow army comrades in restive Manipur state in 2009.

The Indian government and security establishment have recently expressed fears of a possible escalation in rebel activity in Kashmir before the country's general election due by May.

On Tuesday, hundreds of angry villagers clashed with police near the de facto border with Pakistan following suspicions that security forces shot dead seven civilians they mistook for rebels.

The Indian government blames Pakistan for fuelling unrest in the troubled region but Islamabad denies the charge. (AFP)