UPDATES WITH ANOTHER GUNFIGHT, DEATH TOLL

By Zahid Rafiq

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) – Six militants, an Indian soldier and a civilian were killed in two separate gun battles in Jammu and Kashmir’s south on Thursday, police said.

In a statement, the police said three militants, an Indian army soldier, and a civilian were killed in a gunfight in Pulwama district when Indian forces — a joint group of army, paramilitary and police — launched a cordon and search operation in the Dalipora village.

“Three terrorists were killed in the ensuing encounter and their bodies were retrieved from the site of the encounter,” said the police statement.

Police identified two of the slain militants as Naseer Pandith and Umar Mir, both were Kashmiri locals, and named the third militant Khalid, a Pakistani citizen.

The militants were linked to the Jaish-e-Muhammad militant outfit, according to the police.

Abdul Rashid Para, a medical superintendent of the Pulwama district hospital, confirmed the death of a 25-year-old civilian, identified as Rayees Ahmad Dar.

According to Dar’s family, he and his brother were taken away from their home and used as human shields by the Indian forces during the gunfight. Dar’s brother was also wounded and has been hospitalized.

Later in the day, three more militants were killed in a gun battle in Shopian.

“In the encounter, 3 terrorists were killed and their bodies were retrieved from the site of encounter. The identities and affiliations of the slain terrorists is being ascertained,” police said in another statement.

Kashmir’s Joint Resistance Leadership has announced to observe a complete shutdown on Friday against the killings.

Jammu and Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965 and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir.

Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire came into effect in 2003.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have reportedly been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

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