Eight dead as Kashmir base raid ends after 36 hours

Gun battle at base in southern part of Indian-administered Kashmir leaves five soldiers and three gunmen dead.

    Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – A marathon gun battle at a paramilitary base in Indian-administered Kashmir has ended after almost 36 hours, with the killing of the last remaining gunman fighting off Indian security forces.

    The fighting at the Lethpora-based camp, in southern Kashmir, left five Indian soldiers and three fighters dead, according to officials.

    The attack began in the early hours of Sunday when three rebels stormed the vast base, located next to a police commando training centre.

    Having taken the camps’ guards by surprise, the attackers forced their way into the premises and took position inside the compound’s buildings.

    An intense gun battle ensued, as hundreds of police, army and paramilitary soldiers rushed to the scene.

    Shesh Paul Vaid, regional police chief, told Al Jazeera that the “operation … concluded” on Monday afternoon, almost 36 hours later, after security forces recovered the body of the third attacker.

    Two local fighters

    Officials said one of the gunmen was a foreigner, while the other two were local residents from nearby villages, making them the first Kashmiris to carry out a “fidayeen” attack in seven years.

    Those kind of assaults are typically suicide raids against official Indian installations, such as army and paramilitary camps. Heavily armed, the fighters usually engage in long stand-offs with the security forces until being killed.

    Most of the “fidayeen” attacks have been carried out by foreigners affiliated with two Pakistan-based outfits – Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, which also claimed the raid at the Lethpora paramilitary base

    Police identified the two local rebels as 16-year-old Fardeen Ahmad Khanday and 24-year-old Manzoor Ahmad Baba. They were both residents of south Kashmir’s Pulwama district.

    Thousands of people participated in their funerals, which were followed by clashes with security forces.

    Decades of fighting

    Anti-India sentiment runs deep among Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population, and most support the rebels’ cause against Indian rule, despite a decades-long military crackdown against the armed rebellion.

    The Indian government and its security apparatus have been frequently accused of violating human rights and carrying out extrajudicial killings.

    Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for the Indian-administered portion to become independent or merge with Pakistan.

    The strength of these rebel groups has deteriorated sharply in recent years, though they maintain the capability to mount spectacular and deadly attacks against Indian security forces.

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