Gun battle marks first deaths after India’s decision to strip Kashmir of autonomy
- Indian police say a soldier and a militant died in a gun battle, while Pakistan says three of its civilians have also died in Indian gunfire
- Up to 4,000 people, many of them young men, have been detained since India stripped Kashmir of its autonomy earlier this month
In a further sign of rising tensions, Pakistan said three of its civilians died in Indian gunfire from across the de facto border in Kashmir known as The Line of Control (LOC).
The Press Trust of India news agency quoted officials as saying one Indian soldier died and four were wounded when Pakistani troops opened fire on forward posts and villages along the LOC in the Poonch district on Tuesday.
“One terrorist killed... Arms and ammunition recovered. Our colleague SPO (special police officer) Billal attained martyrdom. SI (subinspector) Amardeep Parihar injured in the incident is being treated at Army Hospital,” Kashmir Zone Police said on Twitter.
A later tweet said that the dead militant was identified as a local man “affiliated” with Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) – a UN-listed militant organisation based in Pakistan which is accused by India and the US of masterminding the four-day Mumbai attacks in 2008.
Security and government sources said at least 4,000 people have been detained in Indian-controlled Kashmir since early August when authorities imposed a communications blackout and restricted freedom of movement in the region. Another report said at least 2,300 people, mostly young men, had been detained.
Those arrested include anti-India protesters as well as pro-India Kashmiri leaders who have been held in jails and other makeshift facilities.
Nearly 100 people have been arrested under the Public Safety Act, arrest statistics showed. The law permits detaining people for up to two years without trial. Meanwhile, at least 70 civilians and 20 police and soldiers have been treated at three hospitals in Srinagar for injuries stemming from the clashes.
Highlighting the growing international concern, a senior US official, who has just returned from a visit to the region, called on India on Tuesday to quickly release detainees and restore basic liberties.
“We continue to be very concerned by reports of detentions, and continued restrictions on the residents of the region,” the State Department official told reporters.
“We urge respect for individual rights, compliance with legal procedures and an inclusive dialogue,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“Kashmir is a very complicated place. You have Hindus and you have the Muslims and I wouldn’t say they get along so great,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I will do the best I can to mediate,” he added.
Officials in France said that President Emmanuel Macron would bring up Kashmir with Modi when the two meet in Paris ahead of the G7 summit.
An Indian statement said Modi had raised with Johnson the “violence and vandalism perpetrated by a large mob against the High Commission of India in London” on August 15.
Several thousand people had protested in London that day over India’s Kashmir move. Police separated them from a smaller pro-Indian counterdemonstration and made at least one arrest.
It was also left seething when the UN Security Council held its first formal meeting on Kashmir in nearly half a century last week, saying it would not accept “international busybodies... tell(ing) us how to run our lives.”
Clashes are common between Indian security forces and militants opposed to Indian rule, with tens of thousands of people killed in the past 30 years, most of them civilians, adding to public resentment towards New Delhi.