Five suspected Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) militants were killed in a battle with security forces in Indian Kashmir on Sunday, while 10 civilians were injured in clashes that followed, police said.
Police said the civilians were injured after villagers gathered at the site of the battle in the Himalayan region’s southern Kulgam area to show solidarity for HM, adding another 11 were injured in a grenade attack in Srinagar. Also on Sunday, thousands protested in West Bengal following the shooting death of a politician late Saturday.
“The militants killed today were involved in a series of attacks on security forces. Their killing is a major setback to the militant group which is struggling to revive its base particularly in south Kashmir,” police Director General Dilbagh Singh told BenarNews.
“Militants are always on the radar of the security forces,” he said adding that these groups were trying to step up attacks on security forces in the run-up to high profile events including the general election to be held by May to make their presence felt.
“The security forces are fully prepared to nullify the evil designs of militants, who are hell-bent on disrupting peace,” Singh said.
The fighting began after government forces cordoned off Keelam village in southern Kulgam area following an intelligence tip that militants were hiding there, defense spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia told BenarNews.
“Heavily armed militants hiding in a house fired on security forces during searches, triggering a gun-battle in which all five militants were killed. A large quantity of weapons were recovered from the encounter site,” Kalia said.
Police identified one of the militants killed as Waseem Bashir, who had joined the militant group in May 2018 after completing a master’s degree in English.
“Waseem was a graduate and involved in a series of violence-related acts. Police wanted him to surrender and live a dignified life, but he was committed to violence and fell to the bullets,” Singh said.
Police said the gunfight triggered clashes as villagers marched to the site of the killings to show solidarity and shouted anti-India slogans. The security forces fired tear gas as the protesters pelted them with stones leading to 10 civilians suffering injuries.
Later, seven security personnel and four civilians were wounded after suspected militants tossed a grenade at a security installation in Srinagar city, officials said.
Muslim-majority Kashmir has grappled with a separatist insurgency that has killed more than 70,000 people since the late 1980s. The Himalayan territory is claimed in its entirety by both India and Pakistan, who have fought two wars over it.
Meanwhile, thousands of activists paraded in West Bengal on Sunday with the body of a politician who was shot and killed the night before while attending a Hindu ceremony, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.
Politician Satyajit Biswas, a member of the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), was shot by unidentified gunmen. His party blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but its leaders denied any involvement, according to AFP.
Biswas “had been actively trying to prevent the BJP’s foray into the community,” said TMC general secretary Partha Chatterjee as he blamed the rival party for the killing.
West Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh blamed the killing on splits in the TMC.
“When there is a political killing, they accuse my party. Let there be a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry, everything will become clear,” he told AFP.