Indian troops kill three Pakistani militants in Kashmir

January 16, 2006 - 0:0
SRINAGAR, India (AFP) -- Indian soldiers have killed three key Pakistani members of a hardline Islamic militant group waging an insurgency in Indian-ruled Kashmir, police said Sunday.

Two of the militants from Lashkar-e-Toiba were killed during a 12-hour long gunbattle late Saturday in the southern Poonch district, a police spokesman said. He identified the pair as Abu Bilal and Abu Saqui. Two others escaped.

"The four were in a meeting when security forces launched a raid based on a tip-off," the spokesman said.

Another Lashkar militant, Abu Maaz, was killed during a gunbattle in the neighboring district of Doda late Saturday, police said.

"All three were Pakistani nationals and served as Lashkar's self-styled district commanders," the spokesman said, calling their deaths a "major setback" for the militants.

Kashmir is in the grip of a 16-year-old insurgency that has left more than 44,000 people dead. Separatists say the death toll is twice as high.

Most militants groups want to secede Kashmir from India and join it with Pakistan. India and Pakistan hold the Himalayan region in parts but claim it in full.