SRINAGAR: Two night-time raiders killed five soldiers and forced 200 of them to flee their hotel barracks on a tourist island in Kashmir's Dal Lake, but the troops – some of them in rowboats – later surrounded and killed the militants in gunbattles before daybreak, officials said.
The overnight clashes also left five of the paramilitary soldiers wounded, but none of the tourists and other civilians at the popular site were hurt, police Insp-Gen S.S. Rawat said.
Visitors who have returned to the stunning Himalayan landscape of Indian-controlled Kashmir this year, after a long lull, said their vacations would continue despite the violence.
The two suspected Islamic militants crept into the camp – a commandeered hotel on a small island in the scenic lake – late on Tuesday and started firing in the dark, scattering the 200 paramilitary soldiers based there.
The soldiers later surrounded the post, with some of the troops in the lake in rowboats, and an overnight gunbattle killed one of the militants. About 100 of the soldiers stormed the hotel at dawn, killing the remaining militant, Rawat said.
More than a dozen Islamic guerilla groups have been fighting in Indian-controlled Kashmir for the Himalayan region's independence or its merger with predominantly Muslim Pakistan. At least 65,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in 14 years of fighting.
Dal Lake is a huge tourist attraction in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu-Kashmir state, and tourists came to take gondola rides yesterday despite the overnight fighting.
“I'm not scared at all. I have three days to spend here and I am going to make the most of it,” said Sarita Kaur from Punjab state. – AP
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