Indian Troops Killed In Kashmir Clash With Militants23 February 2010
Srinagar: An Indian army captain and two soldiers have been killed in a prolonged encounter with militants in Indian-administered Kashmir. Clashes began early on Tuesday morning in the Chinkipora area in Sopore town, 54km (33 miles) north of Srinagar city. Indian border guards in Kashmir said they came under fire from Pakistan on Wednesday, a day before the two neighbours meet for talks. They are the first formal discussions since the 2008 Mumbai attacks. 'The firing from across the border started early morning. A BSF (Border Security Force) personnel was injured,' Vinod Sharma, a spokesman for the border guards, told the Reuters news agency. The shooting took place in the Samba area in the southern part of Indian-administered Kashmir. The Kashmir dispute has been at the centre of decades of hostility between India and Pakistan and the cause of two of their three wars since independence from British rule in 1947. 'Tough fight' A defence spokesman told the BBC that troops on Tuesday laid siege to a militant hideout after receiving a tip-off. The operation is still continuing. Thousands of troops are fighting a two decade-old insurgency in Kashmir. The BBC's Altaf Hussain in Srinagar says these are the highest casualties suffered by the Indian forces in an operation in Kashmir so far this year. The operation was launched jointly by the army, paramilitary troops and police. The militants fired at the security forces when they were asked to surrender. The area was cordoned off and a heavy gun battle began. A police officer told the BBC that the militants were armed with grenade launchers and sophisticated weapons and put up a tough fight. The fighting continued till late at night and the operation began again on Wednesday morning, although there has been no firing so far. A defence spokesman said the troops were treading carefully because there may be more militants hiding in the area. The foreign secretaries of the two nuclear-armed countries will meet on Thursday for talks which correspondents say could eventually pave the way for the resumption of the formal peace process broken off after the 2008 Mumbai strike that killed 174 people. There has been a spate of clashes in the past few months along the Line of Control that separates Indian and Pakistani-administered Kashmir. Pakistan wants to put disagreements over river waters at the top of the talks agenda along with the Kashmir dispute. But Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said on Monday that Indian concerns about militant groups based in Pakistan would form the main focus of the talks with her Pakistani counterpart.