Indian security forces clashed for a third day amid heavy gunfire on Monday to clear militants who attacked a government building in Kashmir region killing six people, officials and a witness said.
After a temporary break in fighting, army commandos and police launched a fresh assault to clear five-storey training institute captured by the militants. Three Indian soldiers, two policemen and a civilian have been killed during the fighting.
“This is one of the longest encounters in Kashmir in recent memory. This is because the building is very big and we have suffered casualties. So we are being cautious," said an army officer who wished his name to be unsaid.
The police reported one militant was killed on Sunday.
The attack began on Saturday when militants shot a bus carrying police before breaking into the training institute building, where more than 100 people were inside at the time.
A witness reported that gunfire and explosions could be heard at the building complex near Srinagar, Kashmir’s summer capital. Indian army and police officials at the scene said three or four militants armed with grenades and machine guns may be inside.
Indian forces have been fighting with rebel groups in the Indian portion of Kashmir since 1989. India blames Pakistan for training and arming the rebels in areas under their control and sending them to the Indian side, a claim its neighbour denies.
The latest attack resembles other militant attacks in India where heavily armed, well-trained men have captured buildings to use them for fighting against security forces.
A similar recent assault on an Indian air base that continued for four days stopped efforts to revive bilateral talks between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan.
Pakistan fought two of their three wars since independence in 1947 over Muslim-majority Kashmir, which they both claim full possession but rule in part. The third was fought over the founding of Bangladesh.