SRINAGAR: Five Kashmiri freedom fighters were martyred on Wednesday in a dawn firefight with hundreds of occupied troops in Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, officials said, as New Delhi escalates counter-insurgency efforts in the disputed territory.
The fatalities pushed the death toll during the current escalation -- which has ramped up since India's nationwide coronavirus lockdown started in late March -- to 14 freedom fighters in four days.
The men, who were in an underground hideout at an apple orchard near Sugoo village south of Srinagar, were surrounded by the troops before daybreak, a local police officer told AFP.
"Five militants were killed in the firefight that ensued. Their bodies and five weapons were retrieved from the site," army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia told AFP.
The 14 deaths in three firefights have taken place in the picturesque southern Kashmir valley region, known for its vast apple orchards.
The shootouts have also sparked clashes between occupied forces and angry villagers who support the freedom fighters.
Pakistan, while condemning the killing of Kashmiri fighters by Indian forces in occupied Jammu and Kashmir, had termed them an act of "state terrorism".
"Pakistan strongly condemns the unabated extrajudicial killings of Kashmiri youth in acts of state terrorism perpetrated by Indian occupation forces in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir," Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui had said in a statement on Monday.
She said extrajudicial killings of Kashmiris in fake encounters by the Indian forces are being perpetrated with "complete impunity" under the cover of draconian laws, adding that the Indian forces neither reveal the identities of the deceased nor hand over their bodies to the families for burial.
"The 'Hindutva' agenda of the RSS-BJP combine is targeting defenceless Kashmiris with mindless violence to break their will," she said, adding that India’s efforts to "subjugate" the Kashmiri people through killings, torture, forced disappearances, incarcerations and brutalisation will not succeed.
With additional input from News Desk