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India says five suspected militants killed in overnight Kashmir clashes

Indian troops are seen at the site of a gunfight in downtown Srinagar, Kashmir, October 17, 2018. (File photo by AFP)

Indian police say they have killed five suspected militants, including a top commander, during overnight clashes in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir.

Kashmir Police chief Vijay Kumar said on Sunday that two separate operations were conducted south of the main city of Srinagar. A top commander from the so-called Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) group was among those killed.

"We had launched two separate operations on the basis of inputs about the presence of militants in these areas last night. Five militants, including JeM commander Zahid Wani, and a Pakistani national, Kafeel, were killed in these two operations," Kumar was quoted as saying. Kumar said a police officer was shot to death by heavily-armed gunmen outside his residence on Saturday evening in the south of Srinagar.

Kashmir has gone through heightened tension in the recent past, witnessing several fatalities. In January alone, 21 pro-independence fighters were killed across India-controlled Kashmir. Last year, the disputed region witnessed a wave of unrest to which the Indian forces responded with a widespread crackdown. Nearly 190 pro-independence fighters were killed.

Indian authorities say more than 400 suspected militants, nearly 100 civilians, and over 80 personnel of security forces have been killed in the Muslim-majority region since August 2019.

At least 2,300 people have also been arrested under the vaguely worded anti-terror legislation called the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), which effectively allows people to be held without trial indefinitely. The practice has been extensively used in the Indian-controlled territory since the special status of Kashmir was revoked more than two years ago.

The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the self-autonomy of Kashmir in 2019, in a move described by neighboring Pakistan as illegal. Since then, India has imposed more internet shutdowns and other restrictions in the region.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since their partition in 1947. Both countries claim all of Kashmir and have fought at least three wars over the territory. New Delhi accuses Islamabad of supporting pro-independence fighters, an allegation rejected by the Pakistani government. Islamabad, in turn, is critical of India’s heavy military deployment to Kashmir and its crackdown on the region’s Muslim population.

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