Indian government forces have killed four rebels in a gun battle in Indian-administered Kashmir during a stringent lockdown to combat the coronavirus, the Indian army has said.
The fighting broke out in a village in southern Shopian district as police and soldiers raided a house on a tip that rebels were hiding there late on Tuesday night, said army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia on Wednesday.
During the gunfight, troops blew up the house with explosives, a common tactic by security forces, residents said.
India has continued its counterinsurgency operations across Kashmir despite a coronavirus lockdown.
Rebels, who either fight for independence or merger of the Muslim-majority region with Pakistan, also have not ceased their attacks on government forces and alleged informants. On Sunday, fighters attacked a paramilitary post and killed three soldiers.
The latest violence comes amid near-daily fighting between Pakistani and Indian soldiers along the highly militarised Line of Control (LoC) – the de facto border that divides Kashmir between the two rivals.
Kashmir has been placed under a security lockdown since last August when India’s Hindu nationalist government stripped the Muslim-majority Himalayan region’s limited autonomy. Low-speed internet was revived in March after more than six months of communication blackout.
Officer Amritpal Singh said police had not yet identified the slain rebels. Residents posting on social media said they were local rebels.
Last week, police secretly buried the bodies of two fighters as “unidentified” in a faraway graveyard despite their families seeking to claim them.
According to human rights groups, thousands in Kashmir are buried in unmarked graves, most of them close to the LoC.
Indian authorities say those fighters are of foreign origin who sneaked into the Indian-administered portion of Kashmir from the Pakistani-administered territory to fight government forces.
India and Pakistan claim divided Kashmir in its entirety. Most Kashmiris support the rebel cause that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian rule.
Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.