Occupied Kashmir: Ten killed in attack on police facility

SRINAGAR (AFP): A day-long gun battle Saturday left at least 10 dead in Indian-administered Kashmir as militants stormed a police facility in a pre-dawn attack, authorities said.

The militants, believed to be three in number, detonated grenades and fired automatic assault rifles to gain entry to the police headquarters in southern Pulwama district which also houses families of some officers, director general of police S.P. Vaid said.

One police officer was killed in the initial assault, while three paramilitary troops were injured and evacuated to a nearby hospital, he said.

“Three more police officers and four CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force) soldiers were killed later during the attack,” Vaid told AFP. Two attackers were killed and government forces were searching for the third attacker, believed to be holed up in the compound, he said.

All the families in the compound were evacuated and the militants had taken no hostages, police said in an earlier statement. Authorities cut off mobile internet services in the district to prevent residents from organising anti-India protests as a tactic to help the militants escape.

In recent months, residents, sometimes entire villages, have increasingly hit the streets and thrown stones at soldiers when rebels are trapped in military cordons to help them escape. Security forces fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators after sporadic protests broke out close to the police facility, an officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Government forces have stepped up counterinsurgency operations since the start of the year and have killed at least 136 rebels, including most of the top commanders of rebel groups operating in the disputed territory. Kashmir has been divided between Indian and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the territory in full.

Rebel groups have for decades fought the more than 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the restive territory, demanding independence or a merger of the former Himalayan kingdom with Pakistan. Tens of thousands, mostly civilians, have died in the fighting.