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Kashmir violence flares ahead of Obama trip

Indian troops shot dead six separatist militants in firefights across Kashmir, police said on Tuesday, raising concerns militants may have stepped up violence ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit to India this week.

india Updated: Nov 02, 2010 17:02 IST

Indian troops shot dead six separatist militants in firefights across Kashmir, police said on Tuesday, raising concerns militants may have stepped up violence ahead of US President Barack Obama's visit to India this week.

Kashmiri militants have staged attacks across India in the past and officials voiced fears they could use violence during Obama's visit to draw global attention to the region, where separatists have fought a two-decade-old revolt against India.

International focus on disputed Kashmir, claimed in full by both India and Pakistan but divided between them, has waned in recent years, with attention diverted by the war against Islamist militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Police said that six Kashmiri militants had been killed since Monday in separate clashes, pointing also to efforts by militants to regroup amid popular street protests against New Delhi's rule that have killed at least 110 people since June.

"Police were exclusively involved in dealing with law and order (protests) during past four months, and this gave militants a chance to regroup," said Syed Ashaq Hussain Bukhari, a senior police official.

"For this reason the number of encounters across the Valley has increased in past few weeks."

The protests since June have been the biggest since an armed revolt broke out in 1989 in Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region over which India and Pakistan have fought two wars.

The recent wave of street demonstrations waned after New Delhi relaxed security in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, freed some 50 protesters and announced compensation for families of the dead. It has also started a process of talks with Kashmiri leaders.

But a separatist strike and a security lockdown have dragged on for more than four months. Most of those killed in the protests were hit by police bullets.

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