Indian forces kill militants in disputed Kashmir, Pakistan condemns deaths

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Indian forces have killed five militants, including a top commander of the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) insurgent group, in stepped-up operations in the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir, police said on Sunday.

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The militants were killed in two separate operations on Saturday night by Indian troops south of Srinagar, the main city in India-administered Kashmir, the Muslim-majority region’s police chief, Vijay Kumar, told Reuters.

“We had launched two separate operations on the basis of inputs about the presence of militants in these areas last night. Five militants, including JeM commander, Zahid Wani, and a Pakistani national, Kafeel, were killed,” Kumar said.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry condemned the latest violence and called for international accountability for the “extra-judicial killing of five Kashmiris”. It condemned what it called India’s insinuation that a Pakistani fighter had been killed.

“The Indian occupation forces are known to kill innocent Kashmiris passing them off as ‘alleged militants’,” the ministry said in a statement.

Nuclear-armed Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.

India accuses Pakistan of backing a separatist insurgency fought by militants that has simmered since the late 1980s. Pakistan, which controls part of Kashmir in the west, denies that but says it offers political support to Kashmir’s fellow Muslims.

Indian police said 21 militants have been killed in January, including eight Pakistani nationals. The Pakistani ministry said 23 Kashmiris had been killed.

“In their unabated reign of terror, the Indian occupation forces have martyred at least 23 Kashmiris in fake ‘encounters’ and so-called cordon-and-search operations in the month of January alone,” the ministry said.

Kumar declined to comment on Pakistan’s statement but said Indian forces launched their operation after militants killed a police officer on Saturday outside his home in the south of Srinagar.

Last year, Indian Kashmir saw a wave of killings of civilians, with militants targeting migrant workers and members of the minority Hindu and Sikh communities in the Kashmir valley.

Indian forces in the heavily militarized region responded with a widespread crackdown. More than 189 militants were killed in Kashmir last year, police said.

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