Gunbattle continues in Indian Kashmir, 2 dead

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SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Two suspected insurgents battled government forces for a second day Thursday in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir, leaving two dead and at least 10 others wounded, police said.

Intermittent gunfire rang out Thursday around a hotel in Srinagar, the region’s main city, where the rebels took shelter after an initial attack Wednesday, said police official Farooq Ahmed.

It was not immediately clear if there were any civilians trapped in the hotel, but government forces had entered the building and were moving slow to avoid further casualties, Ahmed said.

He said one soldier and one civilian were killed and the 10 wounded included four soldiers. The deaths were the result of the initial attack.

The wounded civilians, who were hospitalized with bullet and shrapnel wounds, included a cameraman from a television news channel, said police officer Sajad Ahmed.

The rebels entered a crowded shopping area in Srinagar on Wednesday afternoon and hurled hand grenades and opened fire at a group of soldiers, Ahmed said.

Dozens of armored vehicles swarmed the usually crowded Lal Chowk area, which was closed off to the public after the attack.

The attack is the first such in Srinagar since 2006, when violence in the region began to decline.

Jamiat-ul-Mujahedeen, one of the rebel groups active in the area, on Wednesday claimed responsibility for the attack by faxing a statement to the local offices of Press Trust of India news agency.

“The attack is in response to India’s propaganda that the armed struggle has weakened in Kashmir,” the statement said.

After the attack began on Wednesday, hundreds of locals gathered on the edges of the district and chanted pro-independence slogans and clashed with troops, forcing them to use bamboo batons and tear gas to disperse them.

Anti-India sentiments run deep in the region, where more than a dozen rebel groups have been fighting for Kashmir’s independence from India, or its merger with neighboring Pakistan since 1989. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the conflict.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and both claim it in its entirety. The longtime rivals have fought two wars over its control since they won independence from Britain in 1947.