3 rebels, civilian die in Kashmir amid battle, clashes

Most Kashmiris support rebel demands that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country. (AP)
Updated 21 October 2018
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3 rebels, civilian die in Kashmir amid battle, clashes

  • Fighting erupted on Sunday after troops cordoned off a village in southern Kulgam area
  • India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety

SRINAGAR, India: Three suspected rebels were killed on Sunday in a gunbattle with government forces in disputed Kashmir, triggering violent anti-India protests.
The fighting erupted after troops cordoned off a village in southern Kulgam area on a tip that rebels were hiding there, the Indian military said. The exchange lasted for several hours in which three militants were killed and two soldiers injured, the military said.
Residents said soldiers blasted a civilian home with explosives while fighting the rebels, a common charge by Kashmiris who deeply resent the Indian army’s presence.
As the fighting raged, anti-India protesters tried to reach the site of the standoff. They threw stones at government forces hoping to help the trapped rebels escape. Government forces fired shotgun pellets and tear gas at the protesters, leaving at least 35 injured.
As counterinsurgency police and soldiers hastily left the place after the fighting was over, hundreds of civilians converged on the site. An explosion occurred as people tried to extinguish fire at the blasted house, residents said, killing at least one civilian and wounding five others who were hospitalized in critical condition.
S.P. Pani, a top police officer, said the civilians assembled at the site despite repeated requests to stay away as soldiers were still clearing the area. “Someone from the crowd fiddled with an unexploded explosive substance resulting in the tragic incident,” he said.
India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety.
Most Kashmiris support rebel demands that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with the rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations.
Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.


Afghanistan starts anti-polio drive in high-risk areas

Updated 23 January 2019
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Afghanistan starts anti-polio drive in high-risk areas

  • Assurances given that vaccinators will not be targeted by militants
  • The war-torn country had 21 cases of polio last year, among the highest worldwide

KABUL: The Afghan government has launched a polio vaccination program covering 5.4 million children in high-risk areas, officials said on Tuesday.

The one-month campaign to inoculate children under 5 years old started on Monday after assurances from tribal chiefs and clerics that vaccinators will not be targeted by militants, and that families will allow their kids to get the lifetime immunization, the officials said.

The war-torn country had 21 cases of polio last year, among the highest worldwide. Among the reasons were health workers’ lack of access due to violence, and families preventing their children from being vaccinated because of the perception that it is hazardous to their health, said Waheed Mayar, chief spokesman for the Public Health Ministry.

Some vaccinators were killed by suspected militants in past years while touring villages. “This year, we’ve received assurances from villagers, tribal chiefs and clerics that they’ll make sure vaccinators are allowed (to do their work) as vaccination is essential for their children,” Mayar told Arab News.

High-risk areas include parts of western, southeast and central Afghanistan, the Public Health Ministry said.

“We will have five vaccination campaigns for the first half of 2019. We are using this time to build immunity among our people,” Public Health Minister Dr. Ferozuddin Feroz said in a statement.

“We need to work together to end polio for the world… We need to help each other, open our doors, get our children vaccinated,” he added.

“Our children are innocents and rely on us to protect them from preventable paralysis. We cannot let them down.”

Parents should plan to have their children at home and available to be vaccinated during the campaign, the ministry said.

“The polio vaccine is safe, even for sick and newborn children. It is very important these children get the vaccine because they have lower immunity, which makes them more susceptible to the virus,” the ministry added. “Polio vaccination has also been strongly endorsed by national and global Islamic scholars.”