Suspected rebels kill three civilians in Kashmir

Suspected anti-India gunmen kill civilians in separate street shootings within 90 minutes of each other, police say.

Chemist Makhan Lal Bindroo being shifted to a hospital after he was shot in Srinagar [Farooq Khan/EPA]

Assailants have separately shot and killed three men in Indian-administered Kashmir, police said, blaming the rebels fighting against the Indian rule in the disputed region for the string of attacks.

In the first incident, police said rebels fired at a prominent chemist, Makhan Lal Bindroo, at his pharmacy in the region’s main city of Srinagar late on Tuesday.

Bindroo, a 65-year-old Kashmiri Hindu, was taken to a hospital where he died, police said, adding that government forces cordoned off the area and launched a hunt for the assailants.

Within an hour, a street food vendor, identified as Virendar Paswan from Bhagalpur district in India’s eastern state of Bihar, was shot point-blank in another neighbourhood in Srinagar, killing him on the spot, police said.

In the third incident on Tuesday night, gunmen fatally shot a taxi driver Muhammad Shafi in the northern Hajin area in Bandipora district.

Indian policemen stand guard inside a hospital in Srinagar where businessman Makhan Lal Bindroo was admitted after he was shot [Farooq Khan/EPA]

Police in a statement called the killings “terror incidents”.

“Investigation is in progress and officers continue to work to establish the full circumstances of these terror crimes,” the statement said.

Government forces cordoned off the sites of the attack amidst a huge search for the assailants. Since August, at least a dozen civilians and police have been killed by suspected rebels.

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the latest attacks, which came just four days after suspected rebels killed two residents in street firings in Srinagar.

The Resistance Front, a relatively new rebel group, claimed those attacks, saying the two slain men worked for the Indian security forces, who have been battling a rebellion in the Himalayan territory for the past 30 years.

Rebel groups have been fighting Indian soldiers since 1989, demanding independence for Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan – which controls a part of the divided region and, like India, claims it in full.

India insists the Kashmir rebellion is Pakistan-sponsored “terrorism”. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle.

Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.

Since January this year, 23 civilian killings have taken place in the region, according to official figures. Six of them belonged to the minority Hindu community.

An official on condition of anonymity told Al Jazeera “this cycle of violence is a brazen act to target people from a specific group and to intimidate the community from returning back”.

Manoj Sinha, the administrative head of the region, condemned Tuesday’s killings, saying he was “deeply anguished” by the killing of Bindroo.

“I strongly condemn this cowardly act. My deepest condolences to the bereaved family. Perpetrators of this heinous act will be brought to justice very soon,” he tweeted.

Sanjay Tickoo, who heads Kashmiri Pandit Sanghrash Samiti (KPSS), a Kashmir-based organisation of local Hindus, told Al Jazeera the “1990s seem to be coming back”.

As an armed rebellion began in the region in the early 1990s, hundreds of minority Hindu families were forced to leave while many others were killed.

“The incident is a setback for all of us who are present in the valley. It has now renewed fears among the people in the community,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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