Two police officers have been killed as suspected rebels ambushed a police bus in Indian-administered Kashmir, while about a dozen others were wounded, officials said, just hours after government forces shot two rebels dead on Monday.
Shortly after darkness fell, attackers sprayed the bus – transporting an unknown number of personnel from the police headquarters in a high-security area of the region’s main city Srinagar – with automatic weapons fire, one officer said.
Police shared the news of the officers’ death on Twitter.
“At least 12 other policemen were injured in the attack, a few of them are in a critical condition,” a police officer, who was not authorised to speak to journalists, told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.
The area was sealed off as reinforcements searched for the assailants.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his condolences and “sought details” of the attack, his office said on Twitter.
Hours before the attack, Indian counterinsurgency police killed two suspected rebels during a brief “chance encounter” at a checkpoint near the city’s military airport, after the suspects fired at them.
Witnesses said the encounter ended within minutes, and accused the police of killing the suspects without justification, saying they never fired at the officers.
Police fired tear gas shells as dozens of angry residents, including women, took to the street near the site of the incident, throwing stones at them amid chants of “We want freedom”.
Last week, suspected rebels had shot dead two police officers in the northern Bandipore area of the Kashmir Valley.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both rivals claim the region in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989.
Human and civil rights groups say some 70,000 people, many of them civilians, have been killed in the conflict to date.
In August 2019, Modi’s BJP-led government stripped the partial autonomy of the region and divided it into two federally-governed territories – a move that has further increased tension in the disputed region.
The move was followed by a months-long security and communications lockdown with hundreds of Kashmiri politicians, lawyers and activists arrested shortly after.
Officials say that since then, about 370 rebels, 96 civilians and 83 security personnel have died, according to AFP.