Mosque siege ends in Kashmir with hostages freed, militants killed
Dec 25, 2007, 7:40 GMT
Srinagar, Kashmir - Police have killed three militants who were holding five worshippers captive at a mosque in India-administered Kashmir, ending a daylong hostage crisis, officials said Tuesday.
Security personnel lobbed tear-gas shells to flush out the rebels from the mosque in the southern district of Kulgam, 75 kilometres south of the state capital Srinagar, and engaged them in a gun battle late Monday.
'The three rebels were killed on the scene after an hourlong encounter,' said the district's senior police official, Hemant Lohia. 'All hostages are safe, and there was no damage to the mosque.'
All the slain militants were accused of belonging to the Hizbul Mujahideen, a major rebel group operating in the region.
Police said the siege began Sunday evening after the three militants, who were on the run after a security search in the area, took five villagers hostage in the mosque.
While initial reports said the militants released two hostages after negotiations with the mosque's clergy, police said three villagers managed to escape on the pretext of getting food from relatives outside the mosque. Two others were rescued from the mosque after the operation, they said.
In a similar incident in September, police killed two militants inside a mosque in the central district of Budgam. The mosque was damaged in the gun battle.
Separatist rebels have been fighting Indian rule for years in Kashmir, which is divided into two regions - one administered by India and the other by Pakistan.
According to India's Home Ministry, more than 40,000 people were killed in the state from 1990 to 2006, including more than 13,000 civilians and 4,000 security force personnel. Independent estimates put the toll as high as 60,000.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur