Security forces kill militant, rescue hostages in Indian Kashmir

Other News Materials 28 August 2008 12:48 (UTC +04:00)

Security forces ended a 19-hour hostage crisis in India-administered Kashmir Thursday when they killed the last of three suspected Muslim militants who held 10 people hostage, police said, reported dpa.

Three male hostages were killed in a shootout with the rebels, but seven people, including four children, were rescued, Jammu police chief Manohar Singh said.

"I had lost all hope, ... but it is with God's grace and help from the army that I could get my children back," Billu Ram, the owner of the house where the militants holed up, told reporters.

The gunbattle with the militants who were hiding inside a two-storey building on the outskirts of Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, ended about 1:30 am (2000 GMT Wednesday).

"The operation in the Bantalab area is over," Singh said. "The third militant was killed by the special forces early on Thursday."

The rebels, believed to be a part of a group of infiltrators who had sneaked across the border with Pakistan, had killed five people, including an army officer, as they made their way into Bantalab Wednesday.

Indian security officials said Muslim militants based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir have been sneaking across the border to carry out attacks, and authorities alleged there have been three major infiltration bids in the past month.

The situation is already volatile in the state as authorities continued a curfew in the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, which has witnessed increasing separatist protests.

The trouble began in June when the state government allotted land to a Hindu cave shrine, leading to protests by Muslim separatists in Kashmir. The land transfer was subsequently cancelled, leading to protests in the Hindu-dominated Jammu region.

As Hindu protestors stopped supplies of essential commodities and medicines by blocking a main highway, the protests in the Kashmir Valley took an anti-Indian turn.

The unrest is the worst to hit the region in more than a decade, and Indian media estimated that more than 42 protestors, mostly in Kashmir, have been killed since July.

In a related development, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva voiced its concern on the civilian casualties and restrictions to the right to freedom of assembly and expression in Kashmir.

More than 40,000 people - including militants, civilians and security forces - have been killed in Jammu and Kashmir since a violent separatist movement peaked in the late 1980s, according to official figures. Independent agencies put the toll at 60,000.

India has accused Pakistan of aiding Kashmiri militants. Pakistan denies the charge and says they are freedom fighters.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over the disputed Kashmir region. Currently, the two countries are engaged in talks to resolve several differences, including those over Kashmir.