Troops Blast Building To Flush Out Kashmir Rebels
19 November 2003
The Washington Post
Srinagar: Troops in Indian Kashmir blasted a building with bombs in an effort to flush out suspected rebels hiding inside and end a 24-hour siege near an army headquarters. The building in Srinagar, Kashmir's main city, was badly damaged and caught fire which spread to a building next door. But the armed men holed up inside continued to exchange intermittent gunfire with troops who had surrounded it, police said. The fighting began late Tuesday after suspected guerrillas attacked a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) security post and subsequently took refuge in a house nearby. One CRPF policeman was killed and two others wounded in Tuesday's gun battle and two more soldiers were wounded when the fighting resumed Wednesday. 'Six civilians were evacuated from the house by the army early Wednesday and operations were launched to flush out the militants,' defense spokesman Lt. Col. Mukhtar Singh told Reuters. The number of gunmen in the building, which also housed a local telephone exchange, was not known. A little-known Kashmiri militant group, al-Mansurain, called newspaper offices in Srinagar Tuesday, claiming responsibility for the attack near the Indian army's 15th Corps headquarters. Guerrillas fighting New Delhi's rule in the disputed territory have repeatedly targeted the heavily guarded headquarters and, in a major attack in 1999, killed the army spokesman in his office. Tuesday's gun battle started on the same day the Jammu and Kashmir state government announced that militant violence had fallen since a new government came to power last November, promising to bring a 'healing touch' to the state, at the heart of decades of enmity between India and Pakistan. A dozen or so groups are fighting for Muslim-majority Kashmir's independence from predominantly Hindu India or merger with mostly Muslim Pakistan in a 14-year rebellion that has killed at least 40,000 people by official count. Separatists put the toll at 80,000. India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars since independence over Kashmir and both of the nuclear-armed neighbors claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Most of it is divided between them, with China claiming a sliver.