Four rebels killed in second Indian Kashmir clash in two days


Srinagar (India) (AFP)

Four suspected rebels were killed by government forces in Indian-administered Kashmir on Monday just hours after five militants died in a firefight in the same area, officials said, as deadly clashes increase in the restive valley.

The fresh clash was followed by the shooting death of an elected village official from India's main opposition Congress party not far from the site of the firefight, which police blamed on the rebels.

Such armed encounters are frequent in the Himalayan region disputed by India and Pakistan, but the fighting has intensified with at least 85 militants and dozens of government forces killed this year.

In the latest incident, soldiers cordoned a village in southern Shopian area early Monday after a tip-off from police, army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.

A firefight broke out and four suspected rebels were killed, he added. Soldiers also blew up at least one home, another police officer and locals said.

An army officer, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said three soldiers were wounded in the confrontation.

Hundreds of villagers rallied in support of the rebels, throwing stones and shouting slogans against Indian rule as the firefight raged, a police officer and locals said.

On Sunday, five militants were killed after Indian soldiers and counterinsurgency police cordoned off Shopian's Reban village.

On Saturday, unidentified gunman shot dead a young man in the northern Sopore area. Police blamed rebels for the killing.

The incidents came a week after New Delhi expelled two Pakistan embassy officials over allegations of spying.

Tensions remain high in Kashmir after New Delhi in August revoked its semi-autonomous status and imposed a lengthy curfew.

Pakistan criticised the move and there has been a frequent exchange of fire across the heavily militarised border between the nuclear-armed rivals.

Since 1989, rebels groups have fought against some 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the territory, demanding independence or Kashmir's merger with Pakistan.

India regularly blames Pakistan for arming and training rebels before sending them across the border, charges that Islamabad denies.