Police say suspected rebels fatally shoot 3 men in Kashmir
SRINAGAR: Suspected militants shot and killed three men in Indian-controlled Kashmir, police said Tuesday, as the disputed region observed a strike to protest the killing of two rebels and a civilian this week during India's counterinsurgency operation.
Three suspected insurgents fired at the three local men overnight in the main town of Baramulla, police said. The victims, ranging in age from 20 to 25, were shot at close range and died instantly.
Baramulla is some 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of Srinagar, the main city of the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir.
No rebel group has claimed responsibility for the deaths of the men.
Police officer Imtiyaz Husain said they were investigating the motive behind the killings but blamed the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba for the shootings.
On Tuesday, a few hundred relatives and neighbors offered joint funeral prayers for the three men before their subdued burial in Baramulla. As usual, the silence and submissive burial was a signal that militants were involved in the killings.
Locals said the three men had earlier been warned several times by rebels to sever contacts with the Indian military.
Also on Tuesday, shops, schools and businesses shut across much of the Kashmir Valley to protest the killing of two Kashmiri rebels and a civilian.
Armed police and paramilitary soldiers in riot gear patrolled streets and enforced a curfew in some areas in old quarters of Srinagar. Security restrictions were also in place in some parts of volatile southern Kashmir.
The two rebels were killed and at least three soldiers wounded on Monday during India's intensified counterinsurgency operation in southern Kashmir. The civilian was killed and at least 14 others wounded when government forces fired at anti-India protesters who were trying to help rebels escape during the gunbattle.
Kashmiris make no secret of their fury at killings by government forces, which regularly trigger bloody protests and demands for "azadi" — freedom — from Indian rule. But the reactions are far more complicated, tangled in fear and loyalty, when residents accused of being informers are targeted. Most Kashmiris support, at least in general terms, the rebels' goals.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, which in recent years has seen renewed rebel attacks and repeated public protests against Indian rule.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety.
Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding Indian-controlled Kashmir be made part of Pakistan or become an independent country. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.