Four Indian security forces and two rebels have been killed in separate gunfights in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Three Indian security officers were killed in an ongoing gun battle with rebels in Indian-administered Kashmir’s Anantnag district, while another soldier and two rebels were killed in a separate gunfight in the border district of Rajouri on Wednesday.
A joint party of police and army launched an operation on Tuesday after getting inputs about the presence of suspected rebels in the forests of Kokernag area of Anantnag.
An official on conditions of anonymity, who was not authorised to speak to the media, told Al Jazeera that the three officials – Colonel Manpreet Singh, Major Ashish Donchak, and the deputy superintendent of police Himayun Muzammil – were targeted by the suspected rebels on Wednesday when they were crossing a stream during the search operation.
“There was a delay in the evacuation due to the heavy fire,” the official added.
The region’s police chief Dilbagh Singh in a statement while condoling the demise of the officers said that “the perpetrators of the criminal act would be brought to justice soon”.
Police officials said the bodies were retrieved amid heavy gunfire.
Army helicopters were pressed into the service for evacuation during the fighting. There is no official word about the number of suspected rebels present in the gunfight.
‘Where is the normalcy?’
“Everyone says the situation is getting normal. Where is the normalcy? asked Ahmad, a 32-year-old friend of police officer Muzammil.
“My friend left behind his young wife and a month-old son. How many more people are going to die here,” said Ahmad, who did not want to use his first name.
The gunfight – the second in 24 hours – comes as India’s Hindu nationalist government, which runs the Muslim-majority region from New Delhi, claims that its policies have brought normalcy in Kashmir which has seen decades of armed rebellion.
New Delhi stripped the disputed region’s limited autonomy in 2019, saying the step would integrate Kashmir with the rest of India and wipe out terrorism.
But intermittent gunfights in the region continue to take place and claim lives. Last month, three Indian soldiers were killed in a gun battle with rebels in the forests of southern Kashmir.
“Terrible terrible news from J&K [Jammu and Kashmir]…. May their souls rest in peace & may their loved ones find strength at this difficult time,” posted pro-India former chief minister Omar Abdullah on X, formerly Twitter.
Indian Union minister General Vijay Kumar Singh also took to X and expressed his grief: “There has been a wave of mourning in the country after receiving heart-wrenching news…”
Earlier in the day, an Indian army soldier and two suspected rebels were killed in a gun battle in the southern border district of Rajouri’s Narla village.
“Large quantity of war-like stores have been recovered including Pak [Pakistan] marking medicine,” the Indian military in a statement said about the Rajouri gunfight, adding, that three soldiers and a special police officer were also wounded in the gunfight.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, both of whom claim the region in its entirety and have fought two of their three full-scale wars over it.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed since early 1989 when India deployed the military to quell an armed rebellion that sought to free Kashmir or merge with neighbouring Pakistan.
India has accused Pakistan of backing the rebels – a charge Islamabad denies.