Indian forces have detained hundreds of people in a sweeping crackdown over the past three days across Indian-controlled Kashmir following "a spate of killings in the Himalayan disputed region."
Local officials said Sunday they had arrested more than 500 people over the past 72 hours across the Muslim-majority region for questioning, with the majority of detainees from the main city of Srinagar.
Police say militants belonging to The Resistance Front, or TRF, rebel group have shot and killed seven people since last week.
According to police, those detained in the crackdown include members of religious groups, anti-India activists and “overground workers,” a term Indian authorities use for pro-independence sympathizers.
The latest killings push up the death toll from such attacks this year to 28 people. While 21 of those slain were Muslims, seven of them belonged to Hindu and Sikh minority communities.
The region’s top police officer Dilbag Singh at a recent press briefing described the killings as a “conspiracy to create terror and communal rift.”
Local police have blamed the spate of killings on armed groups fighting against Indian rule in the region for decades.
On Thursday, TRF in a statement on social media allegedly claimed the group was targeting those working for Indian authorities and was not picking targets based on faith.
The Indian officials say TRF is the local front for Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group that is based in Pakistan.
The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the self-autonomy of Indian-controlled Kashmir in 2019, in a move described by Pakistan as illegal. Since then, India has imposed more internet shutdowns and other restrictions in the disputed Muslim-majority region.
Indian authorities also put in place a slew of new laws, which critics and many Kashmiris fear could change the region’s demographics.
Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since their partition in 1947. Both countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought three wars over the territory.