19 killed in Kashmir violence
* Mirwaiz allowed to travel abroad
SRINAGAR: Indian troops killed 15 Islamic militants in clashes across held Kashmir overnight and on Saturday, according to Indian officials, while four civilians were also killed.
Five militants were killed when the army raided a suspected hideout in the southwestern Poonch district on Saturday, according to an Indian Defence Ministry spokesman. The Indian police claimed that those killed belonged to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a pro-Pakistan militant group. There was no independent confirmation of the police claim.
An Indian police spokesman said six more militants were shot dead in three gun battles overnight in northern Baramulla, while another was killed Saturday near Qazigund. Two more militants were shot dead in Kupwara overnight and Saturday. Meanwhile, assailants barged into a house in Poonch and beheaded the owner, according to Indian Inspector General of Police SM Sahai.
Elsewhere, assailants broke into a house in Rajouri, dragged the two occupants outside and shot them dead, Sahai said. Another civilian was killed in Doda.
Meanwhile, the Indian government has allowed Mirwaiz Omar Farooq to travel abroad. The move is being seen as a “softening of approach” towards moderate Kashmiri leaders. Farooq, who left for Jeddah to perform Umrah, has been issued travel documents for three months to visit the US, UK, Canada and Saudi Arabia, sources said. The Indian government had impounded the passports of all separatist leaders, including Farooq.
The Hurriyat faction, led by Farooq, has already held two rounds of talks with the previous National Democratic Alliance government. The crucial third phase of the dialogue with the Congress-led United Provincial Alliance government has been delayed.
Sources said the move was meant to send a “positive signal” to Kashmiri leaders. “The move is meant to be a confidence building measure to bring the stalled process back on track,” sources said. agencies