Key Kashmir rebel leader killed by India forces
SRINAGAR, India, May 19, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – Two Kashmir militants
including a key rebel leader were killed by Indian government forces
during a 12-hour gun battle in the restive region’s capital on
Tuesday, authorities said.
Such clashes are a common occurrence in the disputed territory but
rare in Srinagar, and the siege marked the first shootout in the
city’s centre for two years.
Explosions and gunshots echoed through the densely populated
neighbourhood, with streets largely empty as a result of a coronavirus
lockdown that has kept most residents to their homes.
Paramilitary troops and police exchanged fire with militants after
cordoning off part of the area.
Five homes were reduced to rubble during the battle and 10 others
were severely damaged, residents told AFP.
Junaid Ahmed Sehrai, a commander of the largest Kashmiri militant
group Hizbul Mujahideen and the son of a top separatist leader, was
killed in the clash, police said in a statement.
Another Hizbul Mujahideen member was also killed and four Indian
police officers were wounded, the statement said.
Most mobile voice and internet services were cut across the city as
the fighting kicked off and have yet to be restored.
Locals poured onto the streets as news of the killings spread to
hurl stones at Indian forces, who fired tear gas and shotgun pellets
to disperse them. No injuries were reported.
The deaths came two weeks after Hizbul Mujahideen chief Riyaz Naikoo
and a close aide were killed by government forces in the southern
Kashmir valley during a two-day gun battle.
Counterinsurgency operations in Kashmir have been stepped up during
the coronavirus lockdown, while rebels have continued to attack
Unlike in the past, authorities now bury slain militants far away
from their homes in unpopulated frontier areas to stop large funerals
from being held.
Police said 73 militants had been killed in Kashmir this year, many
of them during the ongoing Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
Rebel groups have fought for decades for the region’s independence
or its merger with Pakistan and enjoy broad popular support.
The fighting has left tens of thousands dead, mostly civilians, since 1989.
India has more than 500,000 troops stationed in Kashmir.