The Indian military says it has killed three suspected militants who allegedly attempted to seize an army base in the Indian-controlled Kashmir, as heightened tensions continue in the disputed Himalayan region.
According to army spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia, the three gunmen, wearing army fatigues, were shot dead in a heavy exchange of fire with Indian soldiers early on Thursday after they fired at sentry posts and tried to break through an army base’s perimeter in Kupwara district near the border with Pakistan.
He further said that three AK rifles and some ammunition were recovered from the gunmen, adding that no Indian army troops was killed or sustained injuries in the incident.
The base attacked serves as the local headquarters of the counter-insurgency military unit and is situated in the vicinity of the fortified Line of Control (LoC), the de facto border that divides Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
The attack came less than three weeks after allegedly Pakistan-based militants assaulted an Indian army base, killing at least 19 soldiers, the deadliest such raid in nearly two decades.
The incident sparked further tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, with New Delhi accusing Islamabad of failure in establishing security over the region and curbing the militants. Pakistan, however, rejected India’s claims that the militants had come from Pakistan, demanding credible proof.
Meanwhile, reports say that a number of militants, allegedly from Pakistan, unsuccessfully tried to break through the barbed wire fence on the LoC at two points in the Nowgam sector and one at Rampur on Wednesday night.
Adding to the tensions, India announced last week that it had carried out “surgical” strikes in the region aimed at barring the militants from alleged further infiltration. Pakistan, however, denied that any such strikes had occurred, saying that there had instead been cross-border fire by India.
The restive Muslim-majority region has also witnessed an increase in mass protests and violent attacks since early July, when a pro-independence figure was killed in a shootout with Indian troops.
New Delhi has repeatedly accused Pakistan of arming and training militants fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India. Pakistan, however, denies the allegations. The two countries have fought three wars over the Himalayan region since they gained independence from Britain some 70 years ago.
In 2003, the two countries agreed to a ceasefire along the LoC in Kashmir and launched peace talks a year later. The process was, however, suspended after terrorist attacks killed over 160 people in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008. New Delhi blamed the attacks on Pakistan-based militants.