Army: Indian forces kill 3 militants to end 3-day standoff

AP News
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Posted: Feb 22, 2016 10:05 AM
Army: Indian forces kill 3 militants to end 3-day standoff

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Indian forces on Monday killed three militants who had holed up for three days in a building in India's portion of Kashmir, the army said, ending the standoff with a total of nine dead.

The troops recovered a large quantity of arms and ammunition as they secured each floor of the five-story government building, said Lt. Gen. Arvind Dutta, a senior army officer. Five soldiers and one civilian were killed over the weekend.

Loud explosions and fierce exchanges of gunfire rattled the building during the 50-hour standoff that was the longest-running attack in five years in the disputed Himalayan region's main city of Srinagar or its outskirts. Fire was also seen in the building, but the flames later subsided.

"The exchange of gunfire has ended. We're now clearing the huge building room by room," senior police officer Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani said.

During the day, the army said the last rebel holdouts had been cornered in the building.

The militants took refuge in the building after they fired automatic rifles and ambushed a convoy of paramilitary soldiers on Saturday. They allowed more than 100 civilian government employees to leave the building without harm.

Three members of the special forces — two army captains and a soldier — were killed in the standoff, along with two paramilitary soldiers and a civilian. Thirteen paramilitary troops were wounded.

Hundreds of residents in the Pampore area, where the militants had holed up, demonstrated on the streets Sunday and Monday to support the rebels. Ignoring government orders to stay away from the site, they chanted slogans against Indian rule in Kashmir. Government forces fired tear gas and pellet guns, while the protesters threw rocks. Police said at least 15 protesters were hurt.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the region, where rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for either independence or a merger with neighboring Pakistan. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising and ensuing Indian military crackdown.

India and Pakistan each administer a portion of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan region in its entirety. The rival nations have fought three wars, two of them over control of Kashmir, since they won independence from British colonialists in 1947.