Seven dead after Kashmir rebels storm Indian paramilitary camp

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 December, 2017, 11:04pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 December, 2017, 11:04pm

Four Indian soldiers and three suspected militants were killed on Sunday after rebels stormed a paramilitary camp in disputed Kashmir, officials said.

Separately, Indian and Pakistani soldiers traded gunfire along the highly militarised line dividing Kashmir between the two rivals, killing an Indian soldier, India’s army said.

In the incident at the paramilitary camp, gunmen in combat dress entered the camp near southern Lethpora village early on Sunday firing guns and grenades at the sentry, said paramilitary spokesman Rajesh Yadav. He said soldiers inside the camp were responding to the attack, which left at least three soldiers wounded.

The initial assault left one paramilitary soldier dead and two others wounded. Police said reinforcements of army soldiers and counter-insurgency police encircled the camp and were exchanging gunfire with the assailants.

In the subsequent fighting, two more paramilitary soldiers were killed and another soldier died from cardiac arrest while being evacuated along with many others who were trapped in the camp’s residential buildings.

Yadav said troops recovered the bodies of three suspected militants and were searching a building in the camp for another militant.

The camp is on the strategic highway connecting the Kashmir Valley with the rest of India and close to the chain of plateaus famed for Kashmir’s saffron fields. Besides counter-insurgency operations, the camp also serves as a training centre for soldiers.

No rebel group fighting against Indian rule immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

Anti-India unrest has simmered in Kashmir since a popular rebel leader was killed over a year ago.

Apart from mass anti-India protests and clashes often leading to the deaths of protesters since the leader’s killing, dozens of young Kashmiri men have joined rebel groups, leading to a surge in attacks. The Indian government responded by stepping up anti-rebel operations.

Over 200 militants, 78 police officers and soldiers, and at least 57 civilians have died in the violence this year, the deadliest since 2010.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population and most people support the rebels’ cause against Indian rule. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, which Pakistan denies.