URI, India (Reuters) - Militants sneaked into an Indian military camp in Kashmir on Friday, killing 11 soldiers and police, the worst losses for security forces in six years in the Himalayan territory claimed by Pakistan.
The attack was followed by a gun battle in the state capital, Srinagar, and a grenade blast in south Kashmir, prompting a call that Pakistan do more to stop militants from crossing into Indian Kashmir.
Violence has escalated in Kashmir as India holds an election to the state assembly that separatists have shunned and instead urged talks with Pakistan to resolve the 67-year-old row over the Muslim-majority region.
The attack on the camp took place in the Uri sector, near the heavily militarized border with Pakistan.
The militants cut through a fence around the artillery camp and fired rocket-propelled grenades at the security force men in their bunkers, an army officer said.
He said six militants were killed in the gun battle that lasted several hours. Six assault rifles and more than 50 magazines were recovered from the attackers who belonged to a “fedayeen” squad, or fighters ready to sacrifice themselves.
Two militants were killed later in the clash in Srinagar, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due next week on a campaign tour. Two civilians were killed in a separate grenade blast.
“These terrorists keep coming from Pakistan,” Home Minister Rajnath Singh told reporters. “Pakistan should make an effort to stop them.”
India has long accused Pakistan of giving material support to the fighters. Pakistan denies that.
India also criticized Pakistan for letting Islamist leader Hafiz Saeed, whom it accuses of masterminding 2008 attacks in Mumbai, hold a rally in Pakistan, saying it was “nothing short of mainstreaming terrorism”.
Tens of thousands of Kashmiris, weary of decades of strife, have voted in the state election that ends this month.
Modi’s Hindu nationalist party is making its most serious bid to win power in the state, banking on votes in the Hindu-majority Jammu region, and Buddhist Ladakh. It is also capitalizing on the rise of independents and splits elsewhere in Kashmir.
Modi is expected to address a rally in Srinagar next week, a rare such appearance for a leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the hotbed of a 25-year revolt against Indian rule.
Muslim Pakistan maintains Kashmir should have been included in its territory when British-ruled India was partitioned into independent India and Pakistan in 1947. India rejects that.
Additional reporting by Douglas Busvine; Writing by Sanjeev Miglani; Editing by Robert Birsel