Deadly Kashmir battle heightens India-Pakistan tensions

- AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, SRINAGAR (India)

Feb 19, 2019-

Indian troops suffered new losses Monday in a battle with Kashmir militants that left nine dead, officials said, just days after a major suicide bomb attack escalated tensions with neighbouring Pakistan.

The confrontation piled more pressure on the Indian government, which has blamed Pakistan for last Thursday’s suicide attack on a convoy that killed at least 41 paramilitaries.

Several hours of shooting rocked the Pulwama district, south of Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, after officials said four soldiers, a policeman, three militants and a civilian were killed in the latest clash.

An army major was among the dead, along with three militants from the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) group which claimed last week’s attack, military and police officials said.

Six senior army men including a brigadier and a lieutenant colonel were injured in the hours-long gun battle, a police official told AFP.

“A police deputy inspector general has also suffered injuries,” the official said.

The identity of the militants was not revealed but local media reports said one of those killed was Abdul Rashid Gazi, a Pakistani national whose role in Thursday’s attack was being probed by investigators.

Hundreds of soldiers raided villages and fired warning shots at a suspected militant hideout, unleashing the firefight in the village of Pinglan late Sunday.

Images showed flames and smoke billowing out of one of the residential houses in the area. Government forces have launched a massive hunt since an explosives-packed van struck the convoy transporting 2,500 security men close to Pinglan on Thursday.

A video on social media purportedly shows a pre-recorded message by the 20-year-old Kashmiri suicide bomber warning of more attacks.

India accuses Pakistan of harbouring the JeM group, a charge Islamabad denies.

With tensions mounting, Islamabad recalled its envoy to New Delhi for “consultations” while Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for greater international action against “terrorism”.

“The cruel terrorist attack in Pulwana shows that time for talks is over,” Modi said after a meeting with Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri in New Delhi.

Thursday’s attack sparked anger and outrage across India.

Thousands of demonstrators staged angry rallies in several Indian cities over the weekend, with attacks on Kashmiris reported in several towns.

Protesters in New Delhi on Sunday burned effigies of Pakistani and JeM leaders.

Published: 19-02-2019 10:54

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