6 combatants, 2 workers killed in fresh violence in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India- (AP) — Assailants fatally shot two non-local workers in two targeted attacks in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Saturday night, police said, days after five people were killed in a similar fashion in the disputed region.

The killing comes hours after police said government forces killed four suspected militants in the last 24 hours and claimed three of them were involved in last week’s killings of three members of minority communities.

Police blamed militants fighting against Indian rule for the Saturday attacks in the region’s main city and a village in southern Kashmir and called the killings “terror attacks.”

In a first incident in Srinagar, police said militants fired at a Hindu street vendor from India’s eastern state of Bihar. He died on the spot, police said.

An hour later, a Muslim worker from northern Uttar Pradesh state was shot and critically wounded in southern Litter village of Pulwama district. Police said he later died at a hospital.

Last week, assailants fatally shot three Hindus, a Sikh woman and a local Muslim taxi driver in the region in a sudden rise in violence against civilians that both pro- and anti-India Kashmiri politicians widely condemned.

Also Saturday, two militants were killed in a gunfight with government forces in southern Pampore area, police said. Another two rebels were killed in two separate gunbattles with Indian troops in Srinagar and southern Pulwama district on Friday.

Police said three among the slain rebels were involved in the killings of prominent local Hindu chemist and two schoolteachers of Hindu and Sikh faiths.

Following the spate of killings last week, authorities have detained over 1,000 people in a sweeping crackdown across the Kashmir Valley.

Meanwhile, the Indian army said the death toll in a gunfight with rebels that raged on Thursday in a forested area of southern Mendhar town climbed to four as troops Saturday recovered the bodies of two soldiers missing in action.

On Monday, five Indian soldiers were killed in the deadliest gunbattle with militants this year in contiguous forested area of Surankote town.

Lt. Col. Devender Anand, an Indian army spokesman, said troops continued with search operations in both the areas.

India and Pakistan claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety.

Rebels in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir have been fighting New Delhi’s rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

India insists the Kashmir militancy is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.

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