Indian security forces killed 12 terrorists in three simultaneous gun battles in the restive Kashmir Valley on April 1. Three Indian Army soldiers and four civilians were also killed in one of the biggest counter-insurgency offensive recent years.
Hundreds of civilians in Indian-administered Kashmir tried to prevent the security forces from carrying out operations against suspected militants and four were killed when police opened fire on stone-pelting demonstrators in southern Kashmir. The violence spread to two neighbouring villages.
More than 50 people suffered bullet and pellet injuries in clashes that erupted around the sites of the gun battles. The three security operations – at Dragad and Kachdoora in Shopian district, and at Dialgam in Anantnag district – resulted in the worst loss of lives witnessed on a single day since 2010.
All three sites are within a 50-km radius and the exchanges of fire that started late on March 31 continued into April 1.
The authorities are bracing for more violence on Monday even as schools have been ordered shut and train services to the region suspended.
“Encounter concluded. One more terrorist body recovered from Shopian encounter site. In all 12 terrorists neutralised (one more being ascertained), 3 soldiers martyred and 1 terrorist caught alive. It’s unfortunate that stone pelting around encounter site cost 4 civilian deaths,” Jammu and Kashmir director general of police SP Vaid tweeted.
Some of the top commanders of militant outfits Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba were eliminated in the gun battles, officials said. Among the terrorists killed was Ishfaq Malik, who kidnapped and shot dead a 22-year-old Kashmiri Muslim army officer, Lt. Ummer Fayaz, in May 2017.
Kashmir has been a point of contention between nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours India and Pakistan for decades and the region has been witness to a militant movement since the late 1980s.
India and Pakistan fought their first war over Kashmir in 1947. Sections of Kashmiris support separatist rebels who want independence or have pledged allegiance to Pakistan.
Pakistan controls roughly one-third of the state, referring to it as Azad (free) Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian side is referred to as Jammu and Kashmir.