Two killed in Kashmir police station attack

A police officer and a civilian are killed when suspected rebels attack a police station in the Indian portion of Kashmir.

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SRINAGAR, INDIA // Suspected rebels attacked a police station in the Indian portion of Kashmir with hand grenades and automatic weapons today, killing one officer and one civilian, police said. Panicked shop owners fled as the assault began in Sopore, a town 55 kilometres north-west of Indian Kashmir's main city of Srinagar, said Sheikh Faisal, a local police officer. Police exchanged gunfire with the attackers for 30 minutes, Mr Faisal said.

"We downed the shutters of our shops and started running away as we first heard sounds of explosions followed by gunshots," said Firdous Ahmed, a shop owner. Police searched the area for the attackers, but they apparently escaped after the assault, Mr Faisal said. Besides the two killed, four police officers and another four civilians have been hospitalised with wounds from the fighting, Mr Faisal said.

The civilians hit were standing near the gate of the police station when the assault began, he said. No rebel group immediately claimed responsibility. The attack appeared to be the latest in a surge of violence by separatist insurgents fighting against Indian rule in the disputed region, which is divided between Pakistan and India. On Thursday, a 15-hour gun battle between government forces and suspected rebels in the region left three combatants dead. Last week, suspected rebels attacked government forces in Srinagar's main commercial hub of Lalchowk, triggering a firefight that lasted 22 hours. Two attackers, one police officer and one civilian were killed.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the disputed majority Muslim region, where more than a dozen rebel groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with neighbouring Pakistan since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training Muslim militants. Islamabad denies the charge, saying it only gives moral and diplomatic support to the rebels. India and Pakistan have fought two wars for control of the region. More than 68,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the militant uprising and the subsequent Indian clampdown.