Troops Lay Siege To Kashmir Mosque After Gun Battle
3 November 2004
Srinagar: Indian soldiers surrounded a mosque in disputed Kashmir on Wednesday after militants fled inside following a gun battle with troops, an army spokesman said. The incident occurred in a district about 45 km (30 miles) south of Srinagar, summer capital of India's only Muslim- majority state. 'There was an heavy exchange fire for hours before the terrorists went into the mosque,' spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel V.K. Batra said. 'Soldiers are using loudspeakers to continuously appeal to the militants to surrender but the militants continue to fire. The army has so far not opened fire,' he said. The troops had sought the help of village elders to urge the militants to surrender, he added. There were no immediate reports of casualties and the number of gunmen was not known. Rebels fighting against Indian rule in the region frequently seek shelter in mosques when they are chased by security forces, who generally do not enter places of worship to avoid angering residents. Indian security agencies say there has been a decline in separatist violence in Kashmir this year compared to 2003, largely due to a crackdown by troops. The decline coincides with a peace process launched by India and Pakistan last year to resolve a wide range of disputes, including Kashmir, a picturesque region at the heart of half a century of enmity between the nuclear armed rivals.