Soldiers search Kashmir frontier after 2 gunbattles end

AP News
Posted: Sep 21, 2016 9:46 AM
Soldiers search Kashmir frontier after 2 gunbattles end

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Indian soldiers on Wednesday searched areas near the de facto border dividing Kashmir between India and Pakistan where two gunbattles with suspected rebels raged for half a day, the Indian army said.

Army spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia said the clashes, which started midday Tuesday, ended late at night.

He said two groups of militants had infiltrated into the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir from the Pakistani-held part near Uri region and Nowgam sector.

One Indian soldier was killed in the fighting. The army did not say if there were any militant casualties.

The clashes came three days after four suspected rebels killed 18 Indian soldiers in an audacious attack on a crucial military base in Uri. The militants also were killed.

That attack escalated tensions between India and Pakistan and provoked calls for revenge, with New Delhi blaming Islamabad-backed militants for the deadly strike, an allegation Pakistan strongly denied.

The disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan by a heavily militarized and mountainous frontier called the Line of Control. Most people in the Indian-controlled portion favor independence or a merger with Pakistan.

A militant uprising and subsequent Indian military crackdown since 1989 have killed more than 68,000 people.

Meanwhile, some residents of border villages in the Pakistan-controlled portion of Kashmir said they were frightened after the Indian army hoisted red flags along the Line of Control, a sign of danger and increased tension.

"We are scared due to the hoisting of red flags on Indian positions ... whenever it was done in the past, firing started," villager Muhammad Rafique told The Associated Press from the Khalana valley.

Indian officials declined to comment on the flags.

India accuses Pakistan of training rebels in its territory and then helping them infiltrate into the Indian side. Islamabad denies the charge, saying it only gives political and diplomatic support to the rebels.

The increased tensions between the nuclear archrivals come amid the largest protests against Indian rule in Kashmir in recent years, sparked by the July 8 killing of a popular rebel commander by Indian soldiers.

The protests, and a sweeping military crackdown, have all but paralyzed life in Indian-controlled Kashmir. More than 80 people have been killed in the protests.

On Wednesday, over a dozen people, including two women, were injured when government forces fired tear gas and shotgun pellets at protesters who defied restrictions and organized a rally in Dooru in southern Kashmir seeking the end of Indian rule, residents and police said.


Associated Press writers Munir Ahmed in Islamabad, Pakistan, and Roshan Mughal in Muzaffarabad, Pakistan, contributed to this report.