SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir
Four Indian army soldiers, including a high-profile colonel, and a police officer were killed in a gunfight with militants in Indian-administered Kashmir, an army spokesman said Sunday.
Col. Rajesh Kalia told Anadolu Agency that a team made up of Col. Ashutosh Sharma plus a major, two soldiers, and a sub-inspector of Jammu and Kashmir Police last night entered a village in the northern Kupwara district where they believed militants had taken civilians hostage in a house.
“The team successfully evacuated the civilians but during the process came under heavy fire,” he said. In the ensuing firefight, two militants were killed as well as all five team members.
Sharma, who commanded about 1,000 soldiers, is the first high-profile killing since 2015, when two colonels were killed in two gunfights with militants in a span of 11 months.
This was also the second major gunfight this year in Kupwara, which shares a border with Pakistani-administered Kashmir. On April 4, five Indian commandos and five militants India said had entered Indian-administered Kashmir from the Pakistani side were killed.
The deceased commandos reportedly belonged to Indian army’s elite 4 Para-Special Forces battalion.
On Saturday, two Kashmiri militants were killed during an operation in the southern Pulwama district.
Neither militants nor government forces have ceased their operations during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown.
According to police, 25 militants, nine Indian personnel, and a civilian were killed in April, making it bloodiest in the past four months.
Jammu and Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts, and claimed by both in full. A small sliver is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought four wars – in 1948, 1965, 1971, and 1999 – three of them over Kashmir.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights groups, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.
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