Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – Four policemen and four paramilitary personnel were killed as rebels stormed into a police installation in the southern part of Indian-administered Kashmir, officials said.
The attack began around 4 am on Saturday when a fidayeen squad of rebels breached the highly guarded district police lines in Pulwama, 35km from Kashmir’s main city, Srinagar.
Local villagers said that they were awoken early during dawn hours by an intense rattle of gunfire.
“We were sleeping when we heard the gunshots and then there was sound of blasts, we thought it will end but it kept happening again and again,” said Abdul Rashid, a resident of Pulwama town. “We have never heard such intensity of gunfire.”
The officials said rebels made a lightening entry into the vast complex, which also houses residential quarters of policemen and managed to barricade themselves inside at least two multi-storey buildings.
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In the fierce gunfight that ensued four policemen and four paramilitary personnel were killed as the area reverberated with huge blasts
“Four policemen and four Central Reserve Police Force personnel were killed and four others were injured,” Director General of Police, Shesh Paul Vaid told Al Jazeera. “We have also recovered the bodies of two unknown militants who look foreign.”
“The operation is still going on as we are searching the third building to find the body of the third militant,” the state police chief said.
The official said that the families of the policemen were evacuated and there was no hostage situation.
The operation to dislodge and neutralise the rebels, who are suspected to three to four in number continued throughout the day as hundreds of policemen, paramilitary and army personnel surrounded the area.
The gunfight also sparked protests in Pulwama villages as rebel sympathetic residents threw stones at the police and paramilitary deployments and convoys heading towards the scene of the gunfight.
The raid comes at a time when the Indian army has launched a major counter insurgency offensive in south Kashmir districts, which have emerged as the epicentre of the region’s new age rebels.
More than 130 rebels have been killed by the army this year, officials say.
Saturday’s attack is one of the deadliest against the Indian security forces in the disputed region where they are battling a resurgent insurgency.
Last year, armed rebels had stormed into the Indian army base near the frontier town of Uri in which 18 soldiers were killed.
The attack in September last year had caused fresh turbulence in the icy relations between India and Pakistan.
Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for the Indian-administered portion to become independent or merge with Pakistan.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
India maintains roughly 500,000 soldiers in the territory.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep among Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population and most support the rebels’ cause against Indian rule despite a decades-long military crackdown to fight the armed rebellion.
India has accused Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, which Pakistan denies.
Rebel groups have largely been suppressed by Indian forces in recent years and public opposition to Indian rule is now principally expressed through street protests.
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Source: Al Jazeera News