Srinagar, JAMMU AND KASHMIR – Security forces killed six separatist militants in a gunbattle in Kashmir on Friday, the army said, taking the death toll for the year to the highest in nearly a decade.
So far this year, 400 people have been killed in Kashmir, more than half of them militants. It is the highest toll since 2008 when 505 people died.
Security forces have stepped up an offensive against militants operating inside the Kashmir Valley as well as those trying to intrude from across the border with Pakistan, officials say.
The militants have hit back, targeting members of the Kashmir police and their families in recent months.
Indian army spokesman Rajesh Kalia said an operation was launched in Sekipora village, around 50 km south of Srinagar, after intelligence reports about the presence of a group of militants.
“Six militants were killed during a fierce gunfight and arms and ammunition along with their bodies have been recovered,” Kalia said.
Among the dead was a member of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba who police say was part of the group that gunned down a top newspaper editor, Syed Shujaat Bukhari, outside his office in June.
The number of deaths in violence in Jammu and Kashmir had dropped to 99 in 2012 but has been climbing since.
The latest crackdown in southern Kashmir was prompted by the abduction of six people from the area by militants.
While four were let off, the militants killed two whom they accused of being informers for the Indian security forces. One of them was beheaded, while a video of the assailants pumping bullets into the other went viral on the social media.