SRINAGAR – Three militants, including a commander of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) militant outfit, and two civilians were killed in a fierce gunfight in restive Indian-controlled Kashmir, police said Saturday, China’s Xinhua news agency reported.
The gunfight between militants and government forces broke out Friday morning at village Aarwani of Anantnag district, about 46 km south of Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir.
“Three militants were killed in gunfight at Aarwani village,” Indian army spokesperson Col Rajesh Kalia said, “The bodies have been recovered this morning along with three assault rifles.”
Police spokesman identified the slain militants as district commander Junaid Matoo and his associates Nasir Wani and Adil Mushtaq Mir. The three were local cadres of LeT.
According to police, Matoo was involved in several militant attacks and killings of policemen, while as Wani and Mir had joined militant ranks last year.
Locals said three houses were damaged completely during the stand-off. Police said the militants were firing on police and army positions from these houses.
The government forces have not suffered any damage fighting the holed up gunmen in the village, police said.
A young man and a teenager were killed after being hit by bullets, besides several others were left wounded. Police said the civilians were killed in the crossfire between militants and the government forces.
“When the gunfight was on, an unruly mob instigated by the militants started pelting stones with an intention to disturb the operation and give chance to holed up militants to escape. Some of the militants also fired from within the crowd indiscriminately on the security forces engaged in the gunfight,” the police spokesman said,
“In the cross firing some people were injured and of them two civilians succumbed to their wounds in hospital.”
Villagers strongly contest the police version and said the civilians were killed and wounded after being hit by bullets and shotgun pellets fired by government forces to scare away the protesters shouting anti-India and pro-freedom slogans.
Meanwhile, six policemen including an officer were killed after militants attacked their vehicle on Friday evening at Thajiwara-Achabal village in the district.
Local media reports said militants looted the service rifles of policemen following the attack. LeT militant outfit has claimed responsibility of the attack.
Friday’s attack comes despite an alert issued by police in wake of an increase in militant attacks in districts especially south of Srinagar.
Police officials said militants in the region have been targeting policemen guarding houses of politicians and other protected people to snatch rifles, in wake of a weapons shortage within the militant ranks.
A guerrilla war has been going on between militants and Indian troops stationed in the region since 1989. However, of late Indian policemen too have been trained to fight them.
Kashmir, the Himalayan region divided between India and Pakistan is claimed by both in full. Since their independence from Britain, the two countries have fought three wars, two exclusively over Kashmir.