Indian officials claim six militants killed in Kashmir

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Srinagar

Indian government forces killed six suspected militants in a series of counterinsurgency operations in disputed Kashmir, police said Thursday, as many shops were shut in parts of the region to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of a popular rebel commander whose killing triggered open defiance against Indian rule.

The deaths in four separate incidents starting Wednesday came as violence in the Himalayan region has increased in recent weeks.

Four suspected militants were killed in two separate gunfights with Indian troops in southern Kashmir’s Pulwama and Kulgam districts early Thursday, the Indian army said. It said soldiers recovered two rifles and two pistols from the sites of the clashes.

On Wednesday, troops apprehended a senior rebel, Mehraj-ud-din Halwai, in the northwestern Handwara area, and after an interrogation he led them to a hideout where he was killed in a firefight, police said in a statement.

At the hideout, Halwai “picked up his hidden AK-47 rifle and started firing indiscriminately upon the joint search party which led to an encounter,” the statement said.

Police said Halwai was wanted for several killings of police and village officials.

It was the second such incident in 10 days. On June 29, police said a suspected rebel commander being held in custody was killed during a gunfight between government forces and another militant after he was taken to a house where he allegedly had
concealed a rifle in the region’s main city, Srinagar.

Many militants have been killed in the past when they were taken by government forces to recover weapons, in what rights groups and residents have called extrajudicial killings.

On Thursday, many shops and businesses in the Kashmir valley, the heartland of the anti-India rebellion, remained shut to mark the fifth anniversary of the death of a popular rebel commander.

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