15 killed as violence flares in Kashmir

Fifteen people were killed in a night of violence in Indian-administered Kashmir, two days ahead of the second round of voting for the state assembly, police said on Sunday.

Among the dead were 10 Muslim rebels shot in clashes with police, including one of two who launched a brazen attack on a police compound in Srinagar, Indian Kashmir’s summer capital.

Violence in Kashmir has risen sharply ahead of Tuesday’s voting in the districts of Srinagar, Budgam and Jammu, with anti-India militants continuing to target those who have chosen to contest the four-phase elections.

Police said a siege of the police complex ended early on Sunday with a policeman and a militant dead.

The other of the two militants who had stormed the complex late on Saturday escaped.

“The siege is over. There were two militants. One has been killed while the other it seems has managed to escape under the cover of darkness,” said police inspector general K.

Rajendra, who supervised the operation, said one policeman was killed in the 12-hour standoff.

The two militants, wearing police uniform, appeared at the gates of the residential complex in the Bemina area of Srinagar on Saturday evening, opening fire and hurling a hand grenade at the sentries, injuring two of them.

The militants later managed to get into the complex of dozens of buildings housing policemen and their families and opened fire intermittently in the darkness.

Also overnight, suspected Muslim rebels threw grenades and fired at the residence of ruling National Conference (NC) legislator Sheikh Rafiq in the township of Shopian, 50 kilometres south of here, police said.

The grenades smashed windows and the militants fled when security guards returned fire. Rafiq was at home at the time of the attack took place but there were no casualities.

Separately, gunmen shot dead a ruling party block president Ghulam Ahmed Paray, in the village of Bandgam in central district of Budgam, police said.

Paray’s killing is the 33rd of pro-India political workers by suspected rebels since August 2, when India announced dates for the Kashmir election. Twenty-one of the victims belonged to the ruling National Conference.

Officials say the militants were targetting political workers as they were frustrated at the higher-than-expected turnout ? 47%—of voters in the first phase last Monday.

In other overnight violence, Indian soldiers shot dead four militants of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group, including a self-styled “district commander”, in two encounters in southern Poonch district, police said.

The slain “commander” was identified as Abu Talawat.

The LeT is one of the two groups India has blamed for a fatal attack on its parliament in December.

The attack triggered a serious military stand-off between India and Pakistan with New Delhi saying it would withdraw its troops only after Islamabad stopped incursions into the Indian zone of Kashmir.

Islamabad says it is doing its best to stop militants from crossing into the Indian region of the disputed Himalayan state. Another three militants were shot dead by Indian security forces in the village of Dandwar in southern Anantnag district, a policeman said.

A teenage boy was also killed in the crossfire and two other people were injured.

Two militants were killed in a separate encounter in Rajouri, also in the south, while two Muslim boys, aged 14 and eight, died overnight when an explosive device went off in the Kalaroos area of northern Kupwara district, police said.

They were playing with the device which they had found in the open fields, when it went off.

More than 36 500 people have died in Kashmir since the eruption of anti-India Muslim insurgency in the scenic region. - Sapa-AFP

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