Woman killed during firefight in Indian Kashmir

 01 Jul 2017 - 10:52

Woman killed during firefight in Indian Kashmir
File Photo: AFP.


Srinagar, India: A woman was killed and seven other people wounded during a firefight between suspected rebels and government forces in Indian-administered Kashmir on Saturday, police and hospital authorities said. 

A 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.

He added that two to three militants were firing from inside a home in which about six other civilians were caught up.

"The militants are using them as human sheilds," he said.

Witnesses disputed the police account and said neighbours 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.

A police officer speaking on condition of anonymity said seven people were injured as government forces fired into the crowds. 

Hospital authorities confirmed the injuries and said one person was critically wounded in his head. 

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.