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India Police: Ex-Journalist Among 2 Rebels Killed in Kashmir

Map of the Line of control, Kashmir
Map of the Line of control, Kashmir

Two suspected rebels were killed in a shootout with government forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir's main city early Wednesday, police said, describing one of them as a former journalist.

The exchange of gunfire erupted after police and paramilitary soldiers established a cordon in a neighborhood in the old quarters of Srinagar on Tuesday night following a tip that two militants were hiding there, Inspector-General Vijay Kumar told reporters.

Kumar said two militants were killed in the ensuing shootout early Wednesday. He said one of them had been a journalist running a news portal in southern Kashmir and joined militant ranks last year. Police identified him as Rayees Ahmad Bhat.

Kumar said that Bhat was involved in several killings of civilians.

Police tweeted a photo of a press ID card they said was found on Bhat's body and said the incident "indicates a clear case of misuse of media."

Kumar asked journalists to follow the Press Council of India guidelines and warned, "Else, police will act."

There was no independent confirmation of the police claim.

The incident comes as journalists have faced relentless pressure since India revoked the region's semi-autonomy in 2019. Dozens have been arrested, interrogated and investigated under harsh anti-terror laws. Fearing reprisals, the local press has largely wilted under pressure.

India and Pakistan each claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety.

Rebels in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir have been fighting New Delhi's rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

India insists the Kashmir militancy is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.