Ten Indian soldiers, police dead in attack on camp in Kashmir

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 05, 2014 12:50 AM

By Fayaz Mukhari

URI, India (Reuters) - Militants sneaked into an Indian military camp in Kashmir on Friday, killing 10 soldiers and police in their bunkers, the worst losses for security forces in more than a year in the Himalayan territory claimed by Pakistan.

Several hours later, a gun battle broke out in Srinagar, the state capital where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due next week on a campaign tour for a state election.

A spate of attacks in recent weeks coinciding with elections to Jammu and Kashmir's state legislature is testing Modi's resolve to deal firmly with security threats while he focuses on reviving economic growth.

It also adds to India's worst fears that Pakistan-based militants will turn their attention to Kashmir as most foreign forces complete a withdrawal from Afghanistan this month.

The latest attack took place in Kashmir's Uri sector near the heavily militarized border with Pakistan just days before it holds the vote in the staggered elections.

The militants cut through a wire fence around the small artillery camp and then fired rocket-propelled grenades at the security force men in their bunkers, an army officer said.

He said six militants were killed in the gun battle that lasted several hours.

The state's chief minister, Omar Abdullah, said the attack "once again shows the desperate levels militants will go to disrupt peace and normalcy".

Tens of thousands of people, weary of decades of strife and lack of development, have voted in the state election that ends this month.

Modi's Hindu nationalist party is making its most serious bid yet to win power in the state, banking on votes in the Hindu-majority Jammu region, and Buddhist Ladakh. It is also capitalizing on the rise of independents and splits elsewhere in Muslim-majority Kashmir.

Security forces launched an operation to flush out militants from a part of Srinagar on Friday, police said, triggering a clash in which one militant was killed.

Modi is expected to address a rally at a cricket stadium in Srinagar next week. A rare such appearance for a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the hotbed of a 25-year revolt against Indian rule.

Separatists have called for an election boycott and urged the Indian government to hold talks with Pakistan to resolve the 67-year old dispute.

Muslim Pakistan maintains that Kashmir should have been included in its territory when British-ruled India was partitioned into independent India and Pakistan in 1947. India rejects that.

(Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari; Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Robert Birsel)