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Indian Kashmir: 5 die in armed clashes

Five people, including a civilian, have been killed in gunbattles between Indian forces and separatist fighters in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Thursday’s incident is the latest confrontation in a new phase of violence in the 30-year insurgency in the Kashmir region.

Tension in the predominantly Muslim region has been high since a February 14 suicide bomb attack by the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) militant group. The attack led to the death of at least forty Indian paramilitary police.

In response, Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave troops a “free hand”, leading to near-daily searches in villages in Kashmir.

Mr. Modi’s tough response to the bomb attack, which included an air strike against a “militant camp” in Pakistan, is believed to have given his party (the BJP) a boost in a general election that began on April 11 and ends on May 19.

Three JeM militants, as well as a Pakistani commander, and an Indian soldier were killed in the gun battle in Dalipora, a village in south Kashmir.

A police source in Kashmir told Reuters that the clashes began in the early hours of Thursday.

However, villagers reported that a thirty-two-year-old civilian was also killed after Indian soldiers had sent him to search a house where militants were believed to be hiding.

Since independence and partition in 1947, India and Pakistan have fought three major wars, two of them over Kashmir.

Following a UN-brokered deal in 1949, Pakistan began to administer  one-third of Kashmir, while India was left in control of the remaining two-thirds.

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