SRINAGAR, India (AP):____Government forces killed five suspected rebels in two gunfights in Indian-controlled Kashmir, including a teenager, police said Sunday. A former police officer was also killed by unknown gunmen in a separate attack in the disputed Himalayan region.
Fighting began late Saturday when troops, acting on intelligence, cordoned off two villages in the southern Shopian and Bijbehara areas, Inspector General Vijay Kumar told reporters. He said two soldiers were wounded in Shopian.
The former police officer who was shot in the western Magam area had served in a police counterinsurgency unit but resigned about a year ago, a local police officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with regulations. He blamed the attack on anti-India militants, and said the targeted individual’s brother still serves as a policeman.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and claimed by both in its entirety. Earlier this year, the two countries reaffirmed their 2003 cease-fire accord. However, inside the Indian-held portion, a crackdown by Indian forces as well as attacks by rebels have continued.
New Delhi describes the Kashmir militancy as Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle.
Kumar, the inspector general, said one of the three suspected militants killed in Shopian was a teenage boy, and that a rifle and two pistols were recovered after the gunfight.
Other police officers, also speaking anonymously in line with regulations, said the slain militant was 16 years old and had joined the insurgency only a few days earlier.
In Bijbehara, Kumar said Indian forces killed two militants and recovered two rifles, adding that the rebels were responsible for killing an army soldier on Friday. Residents said troops torched a civilian home during the gunbattle.
Authorities buried the slain militants at a remote graveyard about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from their ancestral villages, a police statement said. Under a policy started in April 2020, Indian authorities have buried over 200 alleged Kashmiri rebels in unmarked graves, denying their families proper funerals. The policy has added to widespread anti-India anger in the region.
At least 15 militants, a policeman and an army soldier have been killed so far this month.
Many Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.
The youngest militant to die in the three-decade insurgency was a 14-year-old boy killed by Indian soldiers alongside another teen in late 2018.