Two children have been killed and five other civilians wounded in a blast in a village in Indian-administered Kashmir, a day after assailants sprayed bullets towards a row of homes in the same area, leaving at least four dead, police said.
The blast occurred near one of the houses targeted overnight on Monday in Dhangri village in the southern Rajouri district.
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A five-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl died in the blast, officials said, adding that the injured were being treated at a hospital.
On Sunday night, two gunmen indiscriminately opened fire at three houses in Dhangri, police officer Mukesh Singh told reporters. He said four civilians were killed and five others were wounded.
Police blamed armed attackers for carrying out the two attacks at Dhangri, which is close to the highly militarised Line of Control that divides the disputed Himalayan region between India and Pakistan.
It was unclear whether the explosive was left behind by the attackers that struck on Sunday night. Authorities rushed police and soldiers to the area and were searching for the attackers.
Dhangri is a Hindu-majority village and all the victims in the two incidents were Hindus.
Hundreds of people assembled in Dhangri to protest against the killings on Monday, chanting slogans denouncing the attackers.
They kept the bodies of the victims in a line in the main square and refused to cremate them while demanding that New Delhi’s top administrator in the region, Manoj Sinha, visit the village.
Nearly three dozen people in the southern city of Jammu also protested against the killings that Sinha condemned as a “cowardly terror attack”.
“I assure the people that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished,” he said.
Later on Monday, Sinha visited the village and met the families of the victims.
An ex-gratia of Rs. 10 lakh and a Govt job would be given to the next of kin of each of those civilians martyred in dastardly attack. Seriously injured would be given Rs.1 lakh. Officials have been directed to ensure best treatment to injured.
— Office of LG J&K (@OfficeOfLGJandK) January 2, 2023
India and Pakistan each claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety.
Rebels in Indian-administered Kashmir have been fighting New Delhi’s rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
Indian officials said at least 172 suspected rebels and 26 armed forces personnel were killed in fighting last year.
New Delhi regularly blames Pakistan for supporting the rebels, an allegation denied by Islamabad, which says it only provides diplomatic support to Kashmir’s struggle for the right to self-determination.
In 2019, India’s Hindu nationalist government, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, scrapped Articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution, which granted Indian-administered Kashmir partial autonomy.
The 2019 move – and subsequent laws and policies – have strengthened anti-India sentiments in the valley and led to a wave of attacks by suspected rebels against the region’s minority communities, mainly the Hindus.
Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the decades-old conflict.