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At least eight killed across Indian-controlled Kashmir amid heightened tensions

Indian troops are seen at the site of a gunfight in downtown Srinagar, Kashmir. (Photo by AFP)

Indian forces say they have killed at least six suspected militants in Kashmir where heavily-armed assailants shot dead a female TV performer and a police officer in the disputed Himalayan region over the past 24 hours. 

Kashmir police chief Vijay Kumar said militants belonging to the so-called Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba organizations were killed in separate encounters that raged on Wednesday.

"Three militants each of Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba were killed in two separate gun battles in Kashmir since yesterday," he said Thursday. "We have also lost a cop in one of the operations." 

Kumar said militants had also shot dead 35-year-old television and social-media performer Amreen Bhat on Wednesday evening.

The developments came after a court in New Delhi on Wednesday sentenced leading Kashmiri pro-freedom leader Yasin Malik to life imprisonment on terrorism charges, sparking fresh tensions in the restive region.

Businesses in Kashmir remained closed for a second day on Thursday, amid protests against the verdict, while police detained 10 people for throwing stones and for sloganeering outside Malik's residence.

Kashmir has gone through heightened tensions in the recent past, witnessing several fatalities.

In January alone, 21 pro-independence fighters were killed across the region. Last year, Kashmir witnessed a wave of unrest to which Indian forces responded with a widespread crackdown. At least 193 militants were killed in 2021 and 232 in 2020.

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

At least 2,300 people were also 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The practice has been extensively used in the territory since the special status of Kashmir was revoked more than two years ago.

Rights groups say arbitrary detentions and killings by Indian troops are leading to a range of human rights violations.

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 in its entirety 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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