Wednesday, 8 December 2021

Kashmir on edge after local government falls amid militant clashes

Kashmiri protesters throw stones and bricks at Indian paramilitary soldiers during a protest on the outskirts of Srinagar. Photograph: Dar Yasin/AP

SRINAGAR: The disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir is on edge after clashes between militants and security forces, and the collapse of the local government over disagreements that include how to tackle the resurgent fighting in the state.

A month-long unilateral ceasefire declared by the Indian government for Ramadan expired a week ago. Recent events, including the first official acknowledgement that Islamic State-inspired fighters may be operating in Kashmir, have raised fears of another violent summer ahead for the troubled region.

In the latest incident on Friday, security forces fought a nearly seven-hour gun battle with militants in the southern district of Anantnag. Four rebels, a police officer and a civilian were killed in the shooting, police said. It is the third clash between Indian authorities and militants since the end of Ramadan, during which security forces had suspended their operations as part of a new push to initiate dialogue with separatists, whose goals include independence or merger with Pakistan.

Police chief Shesh Paul Vaid identified the slain fighters as members of a local unit that claims to be affiliated with Isis. This is the first time the police have acknowledged the presence of Isis-inspired or affiliated fighters in Kashmir.

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