Four rebels killed in gun battle in Indian-administered Kashmir

Fighting comes as the region reels from the fiercest clashes in a decade in which over 500 have been killed.

    India and Pakistan claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety [File: Danish Ismail/Reuters]
    India and Pakistan claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety [File: Danish Ismail/Reuters]

    At least four rebels were killed in a gun battle with security forces in Indian-administered Kashmir on Saturday, officials said.

    The clash took place in the village of Hajin Payeen in the Pulwama district when the Indian Army launched a search for rebels after receiving intelligence.

    The rebels fired on the security personnel, sparking a four-hour gun battle. The bodies of four fighters were found following the encounter, a defence spokesperson said.

    As news of the fighting spread, local protesters gathered near the site of the gunfight and threw stones at the security forces, which lobbed tear gas to disperse the mobs.

    Indian-administered Kashmir has witnessed a spike in violence since the killing of Burhan Wani, a popular rebel commander, in 2016.

    Kashmir-based rights group Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) said 528 people have been killed this year in armed conflicts in the disputed Himalayan territory, including 145 civilians.

    JKCCS spokesman Khurram Parvez said it was the "bloodiest year since 2009" and blamed it on the "political weakness" of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India's main ruling party.

    India and Pakistan claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety.

    Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. Most Kashmiris support the rebel cause that the territory stays united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

    India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Islamabad denies. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

    SOURCE: News agencies