Tension grips Kashmir as five civilians killed in less than 24 hours

Activists of right wing Hindu group Rashtriya Bajrang Dal, reacting to the militant attack in the southern Rajouri district of Indian-controlled Kashmir shout slogans during a protest in Jammu (AP)
Activists of right wing Hindu group Rashtriya Bajrang Dal, reacting to the militant attack in the southern Rajouri district of Indian-controlled Kashmir shout slogans during a protest in Jammu (AP)

Fresh violence in India’s Jammu and Kashmir has escalated tensions after five people, including a young child, were killed in two separate incidents in less than 24 hours.

A day after suspected militants sprayed bullets towards a row of civilian homes in Jammu’s Rajouri District, killing four people, a bomb blast near the same homes left a child dead and four other people injured on Monday.

The violence on the first two days of the new year has triggered fear and tension in the region as the family members grieved the death and protested against the attacks.

Police and security forces have launched a massive manhunt to locate the suspects of the two attacks, intensifying security in the area.

On Sunday evening, two armed men arrived in the Dangri village from a nearby forest and targeted three houses, asking the locals to show their identity cards. After nearly a dozen of villagers gathered, the two suspected militants sprayed bullets.

At least four people were killed and nine were injured in the attack.

On Monday, a child was killed and seven people were injured in a bomb blast near one of the houses targeted overnight in the village, police said.

It was unclear whether the explosive was left behind by the attackers.

“Today an explosion took place in which a child was killed and seven people got injured. It seems that the IED was kept under a gunny bag,” said Mukesh Singh, additional director general of police, Jammu Zone.

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“Info about presence of two terrorists has been received. Area has been cordoned off and search Op underway”.

Manoj Sinha, New Delhi’s top administrator in Jammu and Kashmir, condemned the incident and called it a “cowardly terror attack”.

“I strongly condemn the cowardly terror attack in Rajouri,” he tweeted. “I assure the people that those behind this despicable attack will not go unpunished. My thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families.”

All the victims in the two attacks belonged to the Hindu community in the region which is under attack from separatist militants. A number of Hindus has been killed in targeted attacks by militants in recent year, sparking renewed fears in the community that faced exodus in the 1990s.

Former chief minister Omar Abdullah of the union territory condemned the attack while blaming security forces for the security lapse.

“This apparent carelessness on the part of the security forces needs to be probed & accountability fixed. Costly lessons learnt in the past taught us not to hand over the sites of encounters/attacks without throughly sanitising them. Why wasn’t this SOP followed in Rajouri?” he tweeted.

The northern Himalayan region of Kashmir is a bone of contention between both India and Pakistan, who both claim it in full but rule it in parts. The two rival nations have fought two wars over the region since independence from British rule in 1947.

India blames Pakistan-backed separatists for stirring unrest in the region to fight new Delhi’s rule.