Indian soldiers shoot six rebels dead in Kashmir

17 May 2008
Sheikh Mushtaq

Srinagar: Indian soldiers shot dead six separatist militants on Saturday in a gun battle, army officials said. The firefight broke out in Tral area, about 40 km (20 miles) south of Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, officials said. It come days ahead of Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee's visit to Pakistan for a review of a four-year-old peace process between the two countries. India accuses Pakistan of arming, training and sending militants into Indian Kashmir, but Pakistan denies direct involvement in nearly a 19-year revolt, saying it is an indigenous movement by the Kashmiris for self-determination. The two sides have made little progress in peace talks started in 2004 over Kashmir, which they claim in full but rule in parts. On Saturday, militants ambushed Indian security forces, the Indian army said. 'The encounter started after an armed militant group ambushed a security force vehicle,' spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel A. K. Mathur said. 'Six militants have been killed.' Eight people, including four civilians, died last week and at least 18 villagers were wounded after militants exchanged fire with soldiers, in the heaviest civilian toll this year in the region. Last week, Indian soldiers came under heavy cross-border fire while trying to stop a group of armed men from sneaking into its part of Kashmir. It was the worst incident on the border between India and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir this year. Officials say more than 43,000 people have been killed since the revolt against New Delhi's rule broke out in 1989. Human rights groups put the toll at about 60,000 dead or missing.