India to resume strikes on militants in held Kashmir

India said on Sunday it was resuming military operations against rebels in held Kashmir after a rare 30-day suspension for Ramazan expired, with a top minister blaming militant attacks.

Army operations were halted on May 16 at the start of the fasting month, despite a months-long escalation of violence in the Muslim-majority Himalayan region.

Troops would stop the pursuit of militants and door-to-door house searches but would still retaliate if attacked, officials said at the time.

“While the security forces have displayed exemplary restraint during this period, the militants have continued with their attacks, on civilians and SFs (security forces), resulting in deaths and injuries,” Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh said on Twitter.

“The security forces are being directed to take all necessary actions as earlier to prevent militants from launching attacks and indulging in violence,” Singh added.

“The government of India decides not to extend the suspension of operations” in held Kashmir, Singh’s office said in a separate statement on Twitter.

“The operations against militants to resume,” it added.

The government’s suspension had failed to halt the mounting death toll in India-held Kashmir, which is also claimed by Pakistan.

A youth died after being hit by a paramilitary vehicle during a demonstration. A number of militants and at least five soldiers or police were also killed in clashes.

One young Indian soldier from Kashmir, who was on leave for the end of Ramadan, was abducted and murdered by suspected militants.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a cabinet meeting on Thursday to discuss whether to extend the initiative, amid a heated debate on the move.

It was the first time in almost two decades that Indian authorities had suspended military operations against militants.

The killing of the abducted soldier and the shooting last week of a leading Kashmir editor, Shujaat Bukhari, put pressure on the government to resume operations.

The home minister said the suspension had been ordered “in the interests of the peace-loving people” of Kashmir “to provide them a conductive atmosphere to observe Ramadan”.

Violence in held Kashmir has escalated since Indian troops killed a top militant commander in 2016. Last year was the deadliest in the region for the past decade.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British rule in 1947 and the two nations have fought two wars over the territory.

Rebel groups seek independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan.

India accuses Pakistan of arming the rebels but Islamabad says it only gives diplomatic and moral support.

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