Nine die as militants attack Indian troops in Kashmir

Indian soldiers take positions following an attack by militants at the Pindi Khattar belt of the Arnia border sector, some 45 km from Jammu district, on Thursday.

Indian soldiers take positions following an attack by militants at the Pindi Khattar belt of the Arnia border sector, some 45 km from Jammu district, on Thursday.

SRINAGAR: Militants attacked an army patrol in Indian Kashmir on Thursday, leaving three soldiers and three civilians dead as fighting continued near the border with rival Pakistan, security officials said.

The group of heavily armed militants attacked the army column near a base in the town of Arnia in Indian Kashmir, about four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the undisputed, internationally-recognized border with Pakistan.

“Three of our soldiers were martyred in the operation which is still ongoing,” army spokesman for the area, Manish Mehta, told AFP, updating the toll from one, after two soldiers shot during the encounter died of their injuries.

Three civilians were killed in crossfire and three militants shot dead in the attack which started early in the morning, local deputy inspector general of police Shakeel Beig said.

“So far three local civilians and three militants have died,” Beig told AFP.

The rebels, suspected to have crossed from Pakistan, entered an “abandoned bunker” which Indian forces then surrounded, triggering the gun battle.

“They are a group of four to six militants now firing from inside the bunker,” Beig said.

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence from Britain over Kashmir. The picturesque region is held in part by Pakistan and India, but claimed in full by both.

Analysts say India has taken a more assertive stance against its neighbor since Modi’s Hindu nationalist party stormed to power in May. The attack comes a day before Modi is expected to address a campaign rally in the nearby town of Udhampur for ongoing elections in the Himalayan region.

Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is striving to win power in the Muslim-majority region for the first time. Earlier, the region’s Chief Minister Omar Abdullah expressed his condolences over the first soldier’s death, while pointing to the timing of the attack.

“The timing of the attack in Arnia can’t be a coincidence. My condolences to the family of the army officer killed in Arnia,” Abdullah said on Twitter.

In October the area was the site of some of the heaviest exchanges of mortar firing between Indian and Pakistani forces in years, when 20 civilians were killed and dozens injured on both sides.

Since 1989 fighting between about a dozen rebel groups, seeking independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan, and Indian forces has left tens of thousands dead, most of them civilians.

 
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