Five militants killed as violence escalates in Indian Kashmir

A security personnel stands guard at a market in Srinagar, Kashmir, on Oct 11, 2021.
A security personnel stands guard at a market in Srinagar, Kashmir, on Oct 11, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

SRINAGAR, INDIA (AFP) - Government forces killed five suspected rebels in India-administered Kashmir, police said on Tuesday (Oct 12), a day after militants shot dead five soldiers.

It comes as the restive territory - contested by nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan - was hit by a string of civilian shootings, with seven killed last week in attacks claimed by anti-India militant group The Resistance Front (TRF).

Police said the five men were killed in two separate incidents in the southern Shopian area of the Muslim-majority region.

Three of those killed were members of TRF, police alleged, saying one of them was responsible for the death of a street hawker last week.

Kashmir's top army officer, Lieutenant General Devendra Pratap Pandey, said the military operations were not connected to the civilian killings.

"I would not like to connect these operations with any of the events that took place in Srinagar or elsewhere," Lt Gen Pandey told reporters.

It comes after five soldiers were killed on Monday in a mountain pass near the Line of Control (LoC) dividing the area from Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

It was the deadliest attack on military forces in the area since a 2013 ceasefire along the LoC was renewed in February.

Two suspected rebels also died in separate incidents on Monday, with one of them blamed by police for killing a taxi driver last week - allegations disputed by his family.

Tensions have soared after Hindu-nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government revoked Kashmir's semi-autonomy in August 2019.

Nearly 200 people, including 157 soldiers and rebels, have been killed in the violence in Kashmir this year so far, according to an AFP tally.

At least 29 civilians - including workers from pro-India political parties - have been shot dead in the past 10 months, the authorities said.

The latest civilian killings have been condemned in Kashmir and across the country, including by politicians from all sides.

Officials told AFP at least 650 people with suspected links to banned religious and militant groups were detained in a sweeping crackdown across the Kashmir valley during their investigation into the recent civilian deaths.

For more than three decades, rebel groups have waged an insurgency against Indian soldiers over their demands for independence or a merger of the entire territory with Pakistan, leaving tens of thousands dead.