Five Indian security forces and three militants were killed in related incidents in Kashmir on Monday and Tuesday, in one of the deadliest clashes in the disputed Muslim-majority region since its autonomy was revoked by India’s central government last year.
According to Indian authorities militants attacked a security checkpoint at Suchpora Kreeri, north of the main city of Srinagar, on Monday morning and killed one local policeman and two officers from the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force.
In a counter operation by security forces, two militants were killed while a soldier also died in the initial clashes. By Tuesday morning the number of militants killed in the encounter had gone to up to three while five security forces personnel were also killed. The security forces personnel killed during the clash include two army soldiers, two CRPF personnel and a policeman.
Police identified the third militant killed in the operation as Usman, a Pakistani national and a top Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) commander. They said he was one of the two militants who killed BJP leader Waseem Bari, his father and his brother in Bandipore in July.
Indian police had previously claimed, on July 12, to have killed Usman and two more militants in an operation in Sopore’s Reban village. On that occasion police had said that Usman was involved in the firing on paramilitary forces, resulting in the death of a CRPF man and a civilian. LINK
In recent weeks, militants have intensified attacks on village council members and other leaders in Kashmir. Five councillors have been shot dead in the past three months, prompting police to move 1,000 village leaders to high-security zones. Many of those attacked belong to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). LINK
On Tuesday of this week an army spokesperson confirmed that three militants had been killed in the operation while two more soldiers, in addition to the three security personnel killed yesterday, had died from their wounds. One AK 47 rifle and three pistols have been recovered from the encounter site.
Indian authorities claim that militant commander Usman was among the top commanders of LeT and with the death of both Sajad alias Hyder and Usman in the Kreeri operation, the LeT has suffered a significant loss.
“Two top commanders of the LeT outfit have been eliminated in the Kreeri operation. The terrain and the topography of the area delayed in concluding the operation fast. The security forces lost five jawans in the operation,” he said. “Drones were also used in the operation, however, since the area was dense, dotted with trees, the drones could not yield the desired result.” LINK
Last week, two policemen were killed in a militant attack on Friday.
This month Kashmir, claimed by both India and Pakistan, marked one year since New Delhi revoked its constitutional autonomy, infuriating the people of Kashmir and inflaming religious tensions in the region. Kashmir has been disputed by India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both countries claim it in full but rule it in part. Many Kashmiris want independence and consider the occupying forces of both countries to be uninvited and unwanted guests.
The move to revoke Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status and autonomy is widely seen as as another step in the erosion of Kashmiri and Muslim rights by India’s Hindu-nationalist government. New Delhi rejects that argument and claims that the changes will promote economic development and bring the region closer to the rest of the country.
Earlier this month, Indian authorities imposed a strict curfew in Kashmir in anticipation of protests ahead of 5 August – the day last year that the central government announced it was revoking Kashmir’s status guaranteed by Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. The state was split into two federally-administered regions and its semi-autonomous status and system of government were revoked, as well as abolishing restrictions on the ownership of land in the region.
Officials said that the curfew was meant to prevent violence by groups planning to observe 5 August as ‘black day’, and additional troops were deployed to the region to enforce the lockdown.
Last year, thousands of Kashmiris were detained during the lockdown that was imposed in the days after the decision was announced, and a communications blackout was imposed that included severing all internet access in the region, in a pre-emptive move to thwart protests. Due to the strict lockdown and the detention of thousands of people, including three former chief ministers of the state, protests against the move were largely controlled.
The state was under curfew-like conditions for months following the revocation of Kashmir’s special constitutional status. And then, when things started getting back to normal, the pandemic struck. The communications blackout has been in place for most of the year. LINK
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