Indian forces kill militants in Kashmir mosque

Indian army soldiers stand in front of a mosque at the site of a gunbattle at Meej Pampore area of Pulwama district, south of Srinagar on June 19, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 19 June 2020

Indian forces kill militants in Kashmir mosque

  • The new fatalities following gunbattles on Thursday and Friday take the death toll of alleged militants over 100 this year
  • Indian-administered Kashmir has been in turmoil since last August when New Delhi revoked its semi-autonomous status

SRINAGAR, India: Indian forces have killed eight militants in restive Kashmir, including two who hid in a mosque, officials said Friday, as New Delhi escalates counter-insurgency efforts in the disputed territory.
The new fatalities following gunbattles on Thursday and Friday take the death toll of alleged militants over 100 this year, officials said.
Indian-administered Kashmir has been in turmoil since last August when New Delhi revoked its semi-autonomous status and imposed a communications blackout that has not been fully lifted.
One gunbattle at Neej, near the Muslim-majority region’s main city of Srinagar, led to the death of one militant and a night-long standoff with two others who hid inside a mosque, officials said.
Security forces used “tear smoke shells” on the mosque and later “neutralized” the two inside, Kashmir’s inspector general of police Vijay Kumar said in a Twitter statement.
There were no immediate independent accounts of the incident.
Security forces also killed five militants who hid in an underground shelter in an apple orchard in Shopian district, security officials said.
The shootouts have also sparked clashes between government forces and villagers who support the militants.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the two became independent and angrily split in 1947. Both claim the whole region which has been the cause of two wars between the neighbors.
Indian forces battling a decades old uprising that has cost tens of thousands of mainly civilian lives have stepped up counter-insurgency operations in the region during a recent coronavirus lockdown.
In recent weeks the two nuclear-armed neighbors have exchanged heavy artillery fire along the unofficial Kashmir border.


Priest who shared stage with Modi tests positive; India sees record number of cases

Updated 13 August 2020

Priest who shared stage with Modi tests positive; India sees record number of cases

  • Nritya Gopal Das, an 82-year-old Hindu priest, was the latest public figure to test positive
  • Television footage showed Modi holding Das’ hands and bowing before him

LUCKNOW, India: India reported another record jump in its surging coronavirus cases on Thursday with nearly 67,000 new infections, among them a religious leader who shared a stage with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a ceremony to launch construction of a grand temple.
Nritya Gopal Das, an 82-year-old Hindu priest, was the latest public figure to test positive after a string of Modi’s top cabinet colleagues were stricken with COVID-19, including interior minister Amit Shah.
With Thursday’s jump of 66,999 cases India now has nearly 2.4 million infections, according to the Health Ministry, behind only the United States and Brazil. For the last fortnight, it has been reporting 50,000 cases or more each day as it opens up the country after a months-long lockdown. Its COVID-19 death toll stands at 47,033.
Modi and Das were among 170 people who attended the Aug. 5 launch of the temple construction in the northern town of Ayodhya.
Dr. Murli Singh, director of information in Ayodhya, said Das had tested positive and was being moved to a hospital near Delhi. But he added that at the time of the ceremony the priest tested negative and so had not posed an infection risk to Modi.
Television footage showed Modi held Das’ hands and bowed before him. Modi’s office did not respond to a request for comment.
Singh said people invited for the launch were all clear of the virus at the time.
“Guidelines were sent to all that only COVID-19 negative people will be allowed in the ceremony,” he said, adding doctors on the ground in Ayodhya had run tests before the event started.
The planned temple at Ayodhya is on a disputed site where Hindu groups have campaigned for decades.
Separately on Wednesday, a government committee said that the country would utilize its large vaccine manufacturing capacity to urgently deliver any potential COVID-19 vaccine to its neighbors and low-income countries.