Army: 6 Killed In Clashes With Militants In Indian Kashmir

10 May 2008
Associated Press

Srinagar: Indian forces and suspected Islamic militants clashed Sunday in two separate incidents in Indian-controlled Kashmir, killing six people, including two civilians and a news photographer, the army said. A soldier and two gunmen were also killed in the fighting, and one of the gunbattles continued to rage hours later with six suspected militants holed up in a house, Indian army spokesman Lt. Col. S.D. Goswami said. In the first clash, soldiers confronted a group of gunmen who had apparently infiltrated into the area from across the de facto border with Pakistan, Goswami said. The militants were found in the village of Kehli Mandi, about 220 miles south of Indian Kashmir's main city, Srinagar. As soldiers approached, the gunmen opened fire, hitting a house, killing two civilians inside and wounding two others, he said. During the heavy exchange of fire, a soldier was killed and photographer Ashok Sodhi was hit, Goswami said. Sodhi, 45, who was covering the battle for the local English newspaper the Daily Excelsior, died later in a hospital. Sodhi, the newspaper's chief photographer, is believed to be the sixth journalist killed since the outbreak of fighting in Kashmir in 1989. He had worked for the newspaper for 25 years and rushed to the scene of the fighting as soon as it erupted, said bureau chief Sanjeev Pargal. The army believed six militants were still holed up in a house in the village, and the two sides were still trading fire hours later, Goswami said. In the second clash, two suspected militants were killed in an exchange of fire with army and police in the forested area of Darsun, about 75 miles north of Srinagar, said Vijay Kumar, the area police chief. Kumar said the Indian forces suffered no casualties. There was no immediate word from any of the more than a dozen Islamic rebel groups that have been fighting for independence from mainly Hindu India or a union with Muslim-majority Pakistan, which controls the other half of Kashmir. Both countries claim the entire region. More than 68,000 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the conflict. India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir.