Srinagar (India): India’s security forces suffered a double blow Monday in disputed Kashmir, with five policemen shot dead in a bank raid and two soldiers killed in an attack along the border with Pakistan.
Suspected militants opened fire on a bank van carrying cash around 70 kilometres (43 miles) south of Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar, killing everybody on board, police said.
“All the seven in the van, five policemen and two bank employees, were killed,” director general of police S. P. Vaid told AFP about the raid in Pumbai in Kulgam district.
The gunmen made off with cash and weapons, another police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
In a statement to a local news agency, homegrown Kashmiri militant group Hizbul Mujahideen claimed responsibility for the attack and warned more would follow.
Suspected militants in recent months have targeted banks in the southern region of the Kashmir valley, where armed groups have been fighting against Indian rule for decades.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British rule in 1947 but both claim the territory in its entirety.
In a separate incident earlier Monday, the Indian army accused Pakistan of killing two of its soldiers and mutilating their bodies in an “unprovoked” rocket and mortar attack in the tense border region.
The Indian army said in a statement that Pakistani troops attacked a patrol operating between two border posts on the de facto frontier known as the Line of Control in the remote Himalayan region.
“In an unsoldierly act by the Pak Army the bodies of two of our soldiers in the patrol were mutilated,” the statement said, warning of an “appropriate response”.
In a statement, the Pakistani army denied responsibility for the cross-border attack, saying the mutilation claims were also false.
“Pakistan Army is a high professional force and shall never disrespect a soldier even Indian,” the statement said.
But India’s defence minister Arun Jaitley said the incident was “the handiwork of a neighbouring nation”.
“Such acts are unheard of even during wars and definitely never in peace time,” he said in a statement broadcast on Indian television.
“The entire country has full faith in the army that they will give the appropriate response.”
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the predominantly Muslim Kashmir valley, one of the world’s most heavily militarised spots, where most people favour independence or a merger with Pakistan.
Apart from armed militant groups, the roughly 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in Kashmir are regularly involved in clashes with civilians, fuelling growing resentment against New Delhi.
The valley has been roiled by violence in recent months, with security forces opening fire on stone-throwing protesters.
Indian troops last week shot at a crowd of demonstrators outside an army garrison where militants had earlier killed three soldiers, hitting one civilian who later died.