Srinagar — Indian forces on Monday killed the last three militants who had holed up for three days in a building in India's portion of Kashmir, the army said, raising the standoff's toll to nine dead.
The troops recovered a huge quantity of arms and ammunition as they secured each floor of the five-story government building, said Lt. Gen. Arvind Dutta, a senior army officer. Five soldiers and one civilian had been killed over the weekend.
Loud explosions and fierce exchange of gunfire rattled the building during the 50-hour standoff that was the longest-running attack in five years in the disputed Himalayan region's main city of Srinagar or its outskirts. Fire was also seen in the building, but the flames subsided after a while.
"The exchange of gunfire has ended. We're now clearing the huge building room by room," senior police officer Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani said.
During the day, the army said the last holdout rebels had been cornered in the building. "Our main purpose is to make sure that we don't have any more casualties," Lt. Gen. Satish Kumar Dua, India's top army officer in Kashmir, said as the operations were ongoing.
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The militants had taken refuge in the building after they fired automatic rifles and ambushed a convoy of paramilitary soldiers Saturday. The rebels allowed more than 100 civilian government employees to leave the building without any harm.
Three members of the special forces, two army captains and a soldier, were killed in the standoff, along with two paramilitary soldiers and a civilian. Thirteen paramilitary troops were wounded.
Hundreds of residents in the Pampore area, where the militants had holed up, demonstrated on the streets Sunday and Monday to support the rebels. Ignoring government orders to stay away from the site, they chanted slogans against Indian rule in Kashmir. Government forces fired tear gas and pellet guns, while the protesters threw rocks. Police said at least 15 protesters were hurt.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the region, where rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for either independence or a merger with neighboring Pakistan. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising and ensuing Indian military crackdown.
India and Pakistan each administer a portion of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan region in its entirety. The rival nations have fought three wars, two of them over control of Kashmir, since they won independence from British colonialists in 1947.