Fri, Oct 06, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Indian security forces clash with Kashmiri rebels

HOLED UP Rebels from a Muslim separatist group hiding in a hotel traded fierce gunfire with Indian security forces, who said the fight would end soon

AFP , SRINAGAR, INDIA

Indian soldiers assemble near the body of a suspected militant who was killed in a gunfight in Srinagar yesterday.

PHOTO: AP

A fierce gunbattle between Indian security forces and Kashmiri Muslim rebels holed up in a hotel in Srinagar continued for a second day yesterday, with six people killed so far and 22 injured.

Police and witnesses said three policemen, two militants and a civilian have died since the shootout began on Wednesday.

Officials said two police were also missing, while 16 commandos and six civilians have been injured.

"A second militant has been killed as well. And most probably there is a third present in the area," federal police spokesman Vishal, who only uses one name, said.

The spark

The fighting started midday Wednesday when militants armed with Kalashnikov assault rifles and grenades opened fire on security forces from a hotel overlooking a police base in Srinagar, Kashmir's commercial hub and a hotbed of insurgent activity.

Fighting was intense early yesterday, as armed police attempted to flush out the militants after first clearing the surrounding area of terrified residents and shopkeepers.

The first militant was killed when he jumped out of the window in attempt to escape and was shot immediately.

The second was killed while making a dash across the street while firing at police.

Security forces managed to enter the New Standard Hotel and were searching the premises room by room, Vishal said.

Police were also combing adjoining buildings to ensure no rebels were hiding there, he added.

By midday yesterday, shooting had subsided and police said they were confident of quickly completing their clean-up operations. They also scheduled a press briefing later in the day.

Seeds of insurgency

Attacks by Islamic rebels on Indian army, police and paramilitary camps have been common in Kashmir since a Muslim insurgency began in the region in 1989.

The insurgency, which was launched to oppose Indian rule in Kashmir, has so far left more than 44,000 people dead.

The al-Mansurian militant outfit has claimed responsibility for the latest attack on the police camp, which also houses a Hindu temple.

The group also claimed responsibility for a May 21 attack on a pro-India rally which killed seven.

India says al-Mansurian is a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba, an outlawed Pakistan-based group fighting New Delhi's rule in Kashmir which police allege helped stage July's Mumbai train bombings that killed 186 people.

Indian Kashmir has also been rocked by violent protests against the planned hanging on Oct. 20 of Mohammed Afzal Guru, an Indian Kashmiri man convicted of conspiracy in a December 2001 attack on parliament.

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