Several Indian soldiers killed in Kashmir gun battles

Senior officers among those shot dead by suspected rebels

Indian security personnel stand guard in Srinagar on Wednesday. AFP
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Five Indian government soldiers including two senior army officers were killed in separate gunfights this week in Indian administered Kashmir, officials said. Four suspected rebels were also killed.

The two Indian army officers, Col Manpreet Singh and Maj Aashish Dhonchak, were shot dead during a gunfight that erupted on Tuesday night in Kokernag, southern Kashmir. Humayun Bhat, a senior policeman, also died.

The gunfight started after government forces laid a cordon around a forest after receiving a tip off about the presence of militants.

The Indian Army said it saluted "the valour and sacrifice of Col Manpreet Singh, and Maj Aashish Dhonchak, who laid down their lives in the line of duty".

The police said they had surrounded two men who belonged to the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group. The group is a notoriously violent extremist organisation linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 175 people, the vast majority of them civilians.

"Our forces persist with unwavering resolve," police posted on X, formerly Twitter.

Relatives attend the funeral of Indian police officer Humayun Bhat in the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian administered Kashmir. AP

Separately, four people including an Indian soldier, a police officer and two suspected rebels, were killed on Tuesday during a prolonged firefight in Rajouri city in the Jammu region, which has a border with Pakistan.

The Kashmir region is ruled by India and Pakistan in parts but has been claimed by both in its entirety since British colonisers left the subcontinent in 1947.

A decades-long armed rebellion against New Delhi’s rule has left tens of thousands of people dead, with anti-India sentiments running high. New Delhi accuses Islamabad of training and arming the militants, a charge denied by the rival nation.

There has been an increase in armed violence in the restive region following New Delhi’s shock decision to strip it of its limited autonomy in 2019 and bring it under its direct control.

Mr Modi’s government argued that the semi-autonomous status fuelled separatist sentiments in Kashmir, the centre of a territorial dispute with nuclear-armed Pakistan.

The valley has witnessed at least 62 militant attacks until May last year while more than 70 militants have been killed by government forces.

Nearly 900 people, including 144 security personnel, have died in attacks since 2019.

It remains one of the most militarised regions in the world, with at least 500,000 Indian armed personnel deployed there.

Updated: September 14, 2023, 11:44 AM