Clashes between rebels and government forces as well as street killings left six more dead in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) on Saturday, officials said, as the disputed Himalayan region battles a worsening wave of violence.
At least 28 people, including nine civilians, have been gunned down in the past two weeks — the victims of a deadly resurgence in a three-decade-old insurgency in the Muslim-majority region.
Saturday saw two freedom fighters from The Resistance Front (TRF) rebel group killed outside the main city of Srinagar, police inspector general Vijay Kumar said.
One of them was top rebel commander Umer Mushtaq Khanday, Kumar added.
Hours later, gunmen shot dead a street vendor and a labourer from outside IIOJK in separate shootings, police said.
Two soldiers were also killed in a "fierce firefight" near the highly militarised Line of Control, Indian military said.
They had been involved in a week-long hunt for rebels that had already seen seven troops killed in the forested border area of Mendhar.
TRF has claimed seven earlier targeted killings, including three Hindu men and a Sikh woman.
More than 1,000 people suspected to have links with banned groups have been detained in a crackdown as part of the investigation into the civilian killings, a police officer told AFP on Saturday.
Tensions have mounted again since the Indian government annulled IIOJK’s semi-autonomy in August 2019 and put it under direct New Delhi rule.
The government has said it took the measures to bring peace and prosperity to the occupied region.
But Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, IIOJK’s chief Muslim cleric who has been under house arrest for more than two years, warned in a statement Saturday that "systemic oppression" was pushing many Kashmir youths into the underground.
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