x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Militants kill nine in twin attacks in Kashmir

Indian Kashmir’s chief minister said the assault was an attempt to derail potential peace talks between the countries at the UN.

Mukesh Gupta

SAMBA, INDIA // Militants dressed in Indian army uniforms attacked Indian police and soldiers near the border with Pakistan on Thursday, killing nine people and triggering calls for talks between the prime ministers of the rival nations to be called off.

Just a day before the twin assault in the disputed Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh said he would meet his Pakistan counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on the weekend.

The leaders of the nuclear-armed neighbours are expected to discuss rising violence in Kashmir. Indian Kashmir’s chief minister said the assault was an attempt to derail the talks.

A group of three gunmen attacked a police station in the morning, about 10 kilometres from the border with Pakistan, killing five policemen. They then hijacked a lorry and raided an army camp, security forces said. One civilian was killed.

The militants killed three soldiers during hours of fighting at the camp, near the town of Samba.

While helicopters hovered overhead, a witness heard sporadic explosions and gunfire as Indian forces closed in on, and eventually killed, the gunmen who were holed up in a building.

“All the three militants have been killed in the Samba army camp operation. Three army men including a lieutenant colonel rank officer are dead,” said army spokesman Rajesh Kalia.

India’s state-run television news channel quoted interior minister Sushilkumar Shinde as saying the militants had entered from Pakistan.

Pakistan’s army and government were not immediately available for comment.

India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over Muslim-majority Kashmir, which they both claim in full but rule in part.

India has accused Pakistan of supporting militants fighting security forces in Indian Kashmir since 1989.

Militant strikes in India’s Kashmir, as well as shooting and mortar fire between Indian and Pakistani forces across the border, have risen this year after a decade of falling violence.

Some Indian officials fear that a new wave of Pakistan-based militants from Islamist groups such as the Lashkar-i-Taiba will turn to India as western troops leave Afghanistan next year.

In a separate incident, the Indian army said it had killed at least a dozen militants from a group of 30 it said had crossed over from Pakistan into northern Kashmir.