90 Rebels Killed Since The Launch Of Kashmir Bus
3 May 2005
Srinagar: The army said yesterday a campaign to hunt down suspected militants in Jammu and Kashmir had left 90 rebels dead since the launch of a bus service last month meant to signal peace in the divided state. The army campaign is being waged against suspected militants in the Indian zone of the state and is aided by an extensive network of fences built by India in the past decade to stop militants crossing from Pakistan, a senior army officer said. 'We have intensified operations against militants given the people's yearning for peace,' the officer, who declined to be named, said. The operations are being waged despite a ceasefire by India and Pakistan along the heavily militarised Line of Control (LoC) dividing Kashmir and the launch of a bus service on April 7 to reunite divided families in the state as part of a peace process begun 15 months ago. 'The militants were killed in nearly 60 clashes with troops across the state since the bus launch on April 7,' the officer said. Four rebel groups have threatened to attack passengers on the bus and disrupt the service in a bid to stall a move by India and Pakistan for a 'soft border' along the LoC. The officer also said troops had intensified operations against militants to gain an advantage ahead of the normal spring melting of snow now covering alpine passes along the LoC. Kashmir received record snowfall this past winter, keeping the mountain passes used by the militants from May to November closed longer than normal. The slow snow melt this year, combined with a pledge by Pakistan to stop militants from crossing into Indian Kashmir, has freed troops to conduct more patrols in small villages and forests for suspected militants, the officer said. 'We are presently concentrating our operations on militants within the hinterland but at the same time keeping a tight vigil along the LoC,' the army officer said. Since the latest peace process started 15 months ago between New Delhi and Islamabad, only a few incursion attempts have been reported, the officer said. Army officials say a 60% decline in militant infiltration is also linked to a sophisticated electrified fence as well as the use of hand-held thermal imaging binoculars and motion sensors. Meanwhile, according to police figures suspected militants killed 45 people since the bus launch, including 10 security force personnel, 29 civilians and six pro-India political workers and former rebels. Some 95 people were also injured during clashes between the combatants and in rebel grenade and gun attacks. None of the rebel groups claimed responsibility for the killings. But militants often target pro- India politicians and people they suspect of working for Indian troops. The army operations were further intensified after last month's talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in New Delhi during which they termed the peace process as 'irreversible.' Tens of thousands of people have died since the eruption of an insurgency in the region in 1989.