25 dead in 5 days of battles in Kashmir

An Indian army soldier lays a wreath during the funeral of a slain soldier, northeast of Srinagar on Tuesday.
Five days of gunbattles between the Indian army and separatist militants in Indian-administered Kashmir have left at least 25 dead — eight Indian army troopers, including one officer, and 17 militants, the Indian military said Tuesday.

Defense Minister A.K. Antony, meeting with India’s military chiefs in Delhi, reviewed the situation in the Himalayan region and told the Army to deal with the situation in the Himalayan region with “utmost firmness.” Kashmir has been in the throes of a violent separatist campaign for nearly two decades during which authorities say 43,000 people have been killed. However, various NGOs and rights groups put the number of dead at twice the official count. In Srinigar, Kashmir, Army spokesman Lt. Col. J.S. Brar told CNN the Army was moving against the militants “based on sound intelligence inputs as well as human intelligence provided by our own sources.” The battles in the Shamsbhari forests of north Kashmir Kupwara district have caused “minimum collateral damage to property,” Brar said. The spokesman denied media reports that helicopter gunships and heavy weapons had been used by the army during these operations against the militants.

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This month’s encounter between the Indian Army and the militants is the second longest in Kashmir this year. In January, a fierce encounter raged for seven days in the Poonch district of Jammu region of Indian-administered Kashmir. Two soldiers, a policeman and four militants were killed in that encounter. Kashmir has been the source of bitter dispute and two wars between India and neighboring Pakistan. Both control parts of the region which is predominantly Muslim.