Saturday 20 January 2018

Soldiers killed in Kashmir attacks

An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard outside the site of an attack at a police station in Hiranagar (AP)
An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard outside the site of an attack at a police station in Hiranagar (AP)
Indian paramilitary soldiers stand guard at a police station that was attacked by suspected rebels in Hiranagar (AP)

Suspected separatist rebels have stormed into a police station in the Indian portion of Kashmir and shot and killed at least six people before attacking a nearby army camp, killing four soldiers, police said.

Security forces killed three attackers after nearly six hours of fighting inside the army camp, said Ashok Prasad, a top police officer in Jammu-Kashmir state. He said the attackers used guns and grenades.

"The firing from the militants has stopped and we are mopping up the area," Mr Prasad said.

Police officer Rajesh Kumar said only three militants were involved in the attacks, based on witness accounts.

Four soldiers died and two others were critically wounded in the second attack, an army officer said. The deputy head of the army's cavalry unit was among the dead and the unit's commanding officer was being treated for injuries, the officer said.

Television footage showed a helicopter hovering near the army camp as soldiers fired at the attackers. Two tanks moved inside the camp looking for the assailants.

In the first attack, three gunmen dressed in Indian army uniforms sprayed bullets at a police station, killing at least four officers and two civilians, according to several police officers.

Another three police officers and one civilian were wounded in the firing, Mr Prasad said.

The attackers then hijacked a truck and drove away. Mr Kumar said they probably drove another vehicle to the army camp, about 25 kilometres (15 miles) away.

A man identifying himself as Shams-ul-Haque and claiming to be the spokesman of a previously unknown militant group - Shohada Brigade, or Martyr's Brigade - claimed responsibility for the twin attacks in a phone call to a local English daily, the Kashmir Monitor.

"We have full contact with militants and all the three militants are locals," he told the newspaper.

India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir in its entirety, and insurgent groups have been fighting Indian rule since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of training and arming Kashmiri militants who carry out attacks in the Indian portion of Kashmir, but Islamabad denies that.

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh condemned the attacks and said in a statement that India was "firmly resolved to combat and defeat the terrorist menace that continues to receive encouragement and reinforcement from across the border (in Pakistan)".

He said, however, that such attacks would not succeed in derailing India's efforts to resolve its differences with Pakistan through dialogue.

Mr Singh and Pakistan's new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, are scheduled to meet this weekend on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting. The two are expected to discuss steps to improve ties.

The area where the attacks took place is nearly 350 kilometres (220 miles) south of Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir. Shortly after the attacks, authorities closed traffic on the nearby main highway linking Indian Kashmir with the rest of the country.

Omar Abdullah, the top elected official in Jammu-Kashmir state, said the attacks were aimed at derailing this weekend's meeting between the two prime ministers. "We should not allow such forces to succeed," he said.

However, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party demanded that Mr Singh call off his scheduled meeting with Mr Sharif.

"For nine years, the Indian government pursued peace talks, but Pakistan kept financing terrorism," said Meenakshi Lekhi, a party spokeswoman.

India feels Pakistan is not doing enough to rein in Islamic militants.

In August, the killing of five Indian soldiers, which New Delhi blamed on Pakistani troops, escalated tensions and threatened to derail overtures aimed at resuming peace talks between the nuclear-armed neighbours. The dialogue was interrupted after fighting between Indian and Pakistani soldiers on the disputed Kashmir border in January.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over control of Kashmir since they gained independence from Britain.

A 2003 ceasefire agreement has largely calmed the disputed border. The two countries occasionally accuse each other of violating it by firing mortars or gunshots, and several soldiers were killed on each side in January in cross-border attacks.

Press Association

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editors Choice

Also in World News