Indian police blame Pakistan for Jammu and Kashmir strife that killed 12

By Fayaz Bukhari

SRINAGAR (Reuters) -Police in India's territory of Jammu and Kashmir blamed arch rival Pakistan on Wednesday for a spate of militant attacks that has killed 12 people and injured dozens over the last three days.

Pakistan claims the Himalayan region, which has been roiled by militant violence since the start of an anti-Indian insurgency in 1989 that killed tens of thousands, although violence has waned in recent years.

"Our hostile neighbour wants to damage our peaceful environment," Anand Jain, police chief of Jammu, told reporters in a reference to Pakistan, which India has accused of stoking violence in the region for decades.

A spokesperson for Pakistan's foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters. It has denied such claims in the past, saying it has given only political and diplomatic support to the insurgency.

Gunbattles in the area on Tuesday killed two militants and a paramilitary soldier while injuring a civilian and six security personnel, authorities said.

A third gunbattle broke out late on Wednesday in the Doda area of Jammu region, injuring one police official, police said.

"Army and police launched an operation in Tanta Top village of Doda district today after intelligence inputs about presence of a group of militants in the area. The militants fired on the troops injuring a policeman. The gun battle is on," the official, who did not want to be named as he was not authorised to speak to the media, said.


The incidents came two days after nine Hindu pilgrims were killed and 41 injured when militants attacked a bus taking them to a Hindu shrine on Sunday, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, head of the Hindu nationalist BJP, was sworn in for a third term.

The focus of militant activities had shifted from the Kashmir valley to the Jammu region, federal minister Jitendra Singh and a lawmaker from the region said on Wednesday while visiting the injured in one of the gunbattles in Jammu.

Jammu is the Hindu-dominated part of Indian administered Kashmir, where all the attacks in the last three days have taken place. In the past, militant attacks have been mostly concentrated in the Muslim-dominated Kashmir region.

The latest violence has prompted criticism of Modi by opposition parties demanding action against the perpetrators.

"Unless we talk to our neighbours we will not be able to solve the problem," Farooq Abdullah, a former chief minister of the region, told news agency ANI, in which Reuters has a minority stake. He is from The Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, one of several parties opposed to Modi.

The region's director general of police, R.R. Swain, said last week the number of local militants was dropping, although 70 to 80 foreign militants continue to be active.

Ties between India and Pakistan have been frozen since India ended the special status of Jammu and Kashmir state in 2019, splitting it into two federally administered territories.

On Monday, the leaders of the nuclear-armed rivals engaged in diplomacy on X as Pakistan's Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and his elder brother and former three-time prime minister Nawaz Sharif posted congratulations to Modi.

In response, Modi said: "The well-being and security of our people shall always remain our priority."

(Reporting by Fayaz Bukhari in Srinagar;Additional reporting by Asif Shahzad Writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by YP Rajesh, Clarence Fernandez and Alison Williams)