India: Assault on Kashmir Army Camp Kills 3 Soldiers

Amin Masoodi
Srinagar, India
2017-04-27
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170427-IN-attack-620.jpg Indian soldiers arrive near the site of a gunfight at the Panzgam army base north of Srinagar, April 27, 2017.
AFP

Suspected Pakistani militants stormed an army garrison in Indian Kashmir on Thursday and killed three soldiers after crossing the de facto border with Pakistan, Indian officials said.

An Indian Army officer – Capt. Ayush Yadav, 27 – was among the soldiers killed in the pre-dawn suicide attack on the Panzgam army base in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district, about 125 km (77.6 miles) from Srinagar, an army spokesman said. He identified the two other slain soldiers as Subedar Bhoop Singh and Naik B.V. Ramanna.

Two as yet unidentified militants were killed in retaliatory action while a manhunt was on for a third attacker who fled the scene, defense spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia told BenarNews.

“The militants attacked the army base at about 4:30 a.m. Thursday. Our quick response team retaliated forcefully. They gunned down two militants following an exchange of fire that lasted over seven hours,” Kalia said.

Five soldiers were injured in the attack, he said.

“We have retrieved the bodies of two attackers, but have yet to ascertain their identities,” he said, adding, “A search operation has been launched to track down a third attacker who managed to escape from the shooting site.”

The attackers are believed to be Pakistani nationals and members of the Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) militant outfit, Kalia said.

The Pakistan-based group, led by Masood Azhar, has been blamed for at least three recent strikes on Indian army installations near the Line of Control (LoC) that killed 32 soldiers since January 2016. India and Pakistan both claim Kashmir in its entirety.

The two nations have fought three full-blown wars, largely over the ownership of the disputed Himalayan region since the partition of the Indian sub-continent in 1947.

India has on several occasions blamed Pakistan for supplying funds to militants in Kashmir, a charge its neighbor denies and blames the decades-old unrest in the Muslim-majority region on what it calls oppressive Indian rule.

Indian Kashmir, or the state of Jammu and Kashmir, has been grappling with a separatist insurgency that has claimed the lives of more than 70,000 people – a majority of them Kashmiri civilians – since the late 1980s.

Civilian killed

Thursday’s attack came amid growing unrest in the region, which has witnessed ongoing clashes between security forces and anti-India protesters since the killing of a separatist leader in July 2016. More than 100 people have been killed and more than 10,000 injured in the violence.

Hours later, clashes erupted after anti-India protesters poured into the streets of Kupwara district demanding the bodies of the suspected militants for burial. One civilian – identified as Mohammad Yusuf Bhat, 50 – was killed when security forces opened fire to disperse the stone-hurling mob, police said.

“We had no option [but to open fire],” the district’s superintendent of police Shamsher Hussain told BenarNews. “Many security personnel were injured in the violence,” he added.

Social media ban

Meanwhile, anger among Kashmiris is brewing over a decision by the state government on Wednesday to block 22 social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp and YouTube, for a month.

The ban was necessary to ensure public safety as these sites were being “misused by anti-national and anti-social elements” to instigate people, the government said.

“It is being felt that continued misuse of social networking sites and instant messaging services is likely to be detrimental to the interest of peace and tranquillity in the state,” the order said.

“The ban on social media is ridiculous and exposes the government’s failure to govern the state. I am confused as to how banning social media will improve the situation on the ground. You can’t subdue people’s anger by blocking websites,” Shahid Ahmad, a Srinagar-based software engineer, told BenarNews.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based media rights group, also hit out at the decision, saying it “will bring neither peace nor order” in the region.

“Such broad censorship clearly violates the democratic ideals and human rights India purports to uphold,” said Steven Butler, CPJ’s Asia Program coordinator.

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