By Hilal Mir
SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) - Four militants were killed in a gunfight with Indian forces in Kashmir, an army spokesman has said.
The gunfight occurred on Sunday during a counter-militancy operation in Watrigam area of Anantnag district, and weapons were recovered from the slain militants, said Col. Rajesh Kalia, a spokesman based in state capital Srinagar.
All the deceased are Kashmiris and three were affiliated with the Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant outfit, while two of them had joined militancy in April last year, one in 2018 and the other in 2017, an Indian central police force officer told Anadolu Agency on the condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The militants were hiding in the house of a civilian when the forces surrounded them, triggering the gunfight, the police officer added.
So far this year, at least 28 militants have been killed in the Muslim-majority state in gunfights with security personnel.
Between Aug. 5, 2019 -- when the Indian government stripped the Jammu and Kashmir region of its semi-autonomous status -- and December, only 20 militants were killed. But in January alone, 17 militants and two security personnel were killed in eight gunfights.
The surge in anti-militancy operations, experts predict, happened after the communication blockade was lifted from the region.
The beginning of the year has given a fair idea of how badly the security tracking system was hit by a blockade of communication lines in Kashmir, Luqman Mukhtar, a research scholar, told Anadolu Agency.
"As communication lines have opened up, the pace of encounters has started taking up in Kashmir," said Mukhtar.
Jammu and Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965 and 1971 -- including two over Kashmir.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence or unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights groups, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.