Nine Killed in Gun Battles in Kashmir

May 17, 2019 Updated: May 17, 2019

SRINAGAR, Kashmir—Indian troops and terrorists clashed in Indian-controlled Kashmir on May 16 and nine people were killed, officials said.

In one of the deadliest clashes since the Feb. 14 suicide bomb attack in the valley, three Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorists, two members of the local Hizbul Mujahideen, two Indian soldiers and two civilians were killed.

Tension in Muslim-majority Kashmir has been high since the suicide bomb attack by the Pakistan-based JeM terrorist group killed at least 40 Indian paramilitary police.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave troops a “free hand” to respond to the attack, and near-daily searches in villages in Kashmir since then have often triggered violent confrontations, with civilians caught in the crossfire to the alarm of rights groups.

Modi’s tough response to the bomb attack is believed to have given his party a boost in a general election that began on April 11 and ends on May 19.

JEM leaders were killed in a gun battle in Dalipora, a village in south Kashmir, where clashes began between the terrorist group and Indian soldiers in the early hours, while Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists were killed in a separate clash in the Handew area of south Kashmir’s Shopian district.

Kashmir is at the heart of decades of hostility between India and Pakistan. The nuclear-armed neighbors both claim it in full but rule it in part.

The rivals have fought three wars since independence, two of them over the Himalayan region, and came close to another after the February bomb attack.

Terrorists, who India says are backed by Pakistan, have been fighting Indian security forces since 1989. Pakistan denies supporting them.

“Even in the holy month of Ramadan there is no let up in killings and bloodshed in Kashmir as civilians, armed youth or even Indian forces are getting killed,” Kashmir’s main separatist political group, the Joint Resistance Leadership, said in a statement. It called for a general strike in Kashmir on May 17.

By Fayaz Bukhari