India, Pakistan exchange fire in Kashmir, killing 9

The renewed fighting comes amid an ongoing lockdown in Kashmir that was put in place after India stripped the region of its semi-autonomy in early August. (File/AFP)
Updated 20 October 2019

India, Pakistan exchange fire in Kashmir, killing 9

  • Pakistan’s army later said that “unprovoked cease-fire violations” by Indian troops killed five civilians and one soldier
  • India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India: Pakistani and Indian soldiers traded fire in disputed Kashmir on Sunday, killing at least nine people on both sides, officials said.
The Indian military said Pakistani soldiers targeted an Indian border post and civilian areas along the highly militarized frontier in Kashmir early in the day, leaving two army soldiers and a civilian dead.
Col. Rajesh Kalia, an Indian army spokesman, said three Indian civilians were also injured in the Pakistani firing. Kalia called it an “unprovoked” violation of a 2003 cease-fire accord between India and Pakistan.
Pakistan’s army later said that “unprovoked cease-fire violations” by Indian troops killed five civilians and one soldier and wounded another three civilians and two troops across the highly militarized Line of Control that divides Kashmir between Pakistan and India.
The army said Indian troops targeted civilians in Jura, Shahkot and Nousehri sectors. It said Pakistani forces responded with heavy fire on Indian soldiers.
India and Pakistan have a long history of bitter relations over Kashmir, which is divided between the rivals but claimed by both in its entirety. The renewed fighting comes amid an ongoing lockdown in Kashmir that was put in place after India stripped the region of its semi-autonomy in early August.
Since then, soldiers from the two nations have regularly engaged in cross-border shelling and firing along their de facto frontier in Kashmir, where rebel groups are fighting for the territory to be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. In the past, each side has accused the other of starting the hostilities in violation of the 2003 accord.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training anti-India rebels and also helping them by providing gunfire as cover for incursions into the Indian side. Pakistan denies this, saying it offers only moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiris who oppose Indian rule.
Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
On Aug. 5, India’s Hindu nationalist-led government stripped Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status and imposed a strict crackdown, sending in tens of thousands more additional troops to the region, which is already one of the highest militarized zones in the world. India has arrested thousands of activists and separatist leaders in the days leading up to and after the revoking of Kashmir’s special status.
More than two months later, the region remains under a communications blockade. Authorities have restored landline and some cellphone services, but the Internet remains suspended.


Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

Updated 17 November 2019

Hong Kong police warn of ‘live fire’ if they face deadly weapons from protesters

  • Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June
  • China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent

HONG KONG: Hong Kong police Monday warned for the first time that they may use “live rounds” after pro-democracy protesters fired arrows and threw petrol bombs at officers at a beseiged university campus, as the crisis engulfing the city veered deeper into danger.
Protests have tremored through the global financial hub since June, with many in the city of 7.5 million people venting fury at eroding freedoms under Chinese rule.
China has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate the dissent, and there have been concerns that Beijing could send in troops to put an end to the spiralling unrest.
Three protesters have been shot by armed police in the unrelenting months of protests. But all in scuffles as chaotic street clashes played out — and without such warnings being given.
A day of intense clashes, which saw a police officer struck in the leg by an arrow and protesters meet police tear gas with volleys of petrol bombs, intensified as night fell.
Clashes rolled across Kowloon, with the epicenter around the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), where scores of defiant demonstrators set large fires to prevent police from conducting a threatened raid on the campus.
They hunkered down under umbrellas from occasional fire from water cannon and hurled molotov cocktails at an armored police vehicle, leaving it ablaze on a flyover near the campus.
Police declared the campus a “riot” scene — a rioting conviction carries up to 10 years in jail — and blocked exits as spokesman Louis Lau issued a stark warning in a Facebook live broadcast.
“I hereby warn rioters not to use petrol bombs, arrows, cars or any deadly weapons to attack police officers,” he said.
“If they continue such dangerous actions, we would have no choice but to use the minimum force necessary, including live rounds, to fire back.”
Police said they fired at a car late Sunday that had driven at a line of officers near the campus — but the vehicle reversed and escaped.
Protesters at the campus appeared resolute — a twist in tactics by a leaderless movement so far defined by its fluid, unpredictable nature.
“I feel scared. There’s no way out, all I can do is fight to the end,” said one protester joining the barricade in front of the university building.
“We need a base to keep our gear and have some rest at night before another fight in the morning,” another called Kason, 23, told AFP.
On Sunday, activists parried attempts by police to break through into the PolyU campus, firing rocks from a homemade catapult from the university roof, while an AFP reporter saw a team of masked archers — several carrying sports bows — patrolling the campus.
Violence has worsened in recent days, with two men killed in separate incidents linked to the protests this month.
Chinese President Xi Jinping this week issued his most strident comments on the crisis, saying it threatened the “one country, two systems” model under which Hong Kong has been ruled since the 1997 handover from Britain.
Demonstrators last week engineered a “Blossom Everywhere” campaign of blockades and vandalism, which forced the police to draft in prison officers as reinforcements, shut down large chunks of Hong Kong’s train network and close schools and shopping malls.
The movement, characterised by its fluidity and unpredictability, has started to coagulate in fixed locations, showing the protesters’ ability to switch tactics.
The protests started against a now-shelved bill to allow extradition to China but have billowed to encompass wider issues such as perceived police brutality and calls for universal suffrage in the former British colony.
The financial hub has been nudged into a recession by the unrelenting turmoil.
A poster circulating on social media called for the “dawn action” to continue on Monday.
“Get up early, directly target the regime, squeeze the economy to increase pressure,” it said.
The education bureau said schools will remain closed again on Monday.
Earlier on Sunday, dozens of government supporters gathered to clear barricades near the university campus — a sign of the divisions slicing through the city.
Many residents are wearied by the sapping protests. Others support the Chinese-backed city government.
Some applauded a Saturday clean-up by Chinese troops from a garrison of the People’s Liberation Army in Kowloon.
The garrison is usually confined to the barracks under Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, although it can be deployed at the request of the city’s government to help with public order breakdown or natural disasters.
Hong Kong’s government, which presides over a city that enjoys greater freedoms than the mainland, said it did not ask the PLA for help on Saturday.
The choreographed troop movement “has only compounded the impression that Beijing has simply ignored” Hong Kong’s unique political system, said analyst Dixon Sing.