SRINAGAR : Gunmen shot dead two paramilitary troopers in Indian-held Kashmir in the third militant assault on government forces in a week in the restive Himalayan region. Gunmen attacked a vehicle carrying Border Security Force (BSF) troops near a military airport just south of Srinagar. “Two BSF personnel got killed and two were injured in the attack,” police inspector general Abdul Gani Mir told AFP, adding the gunmen fled immediately afterwards.

The assault marked the third attack by suspected militants on Indian forces in a week. The first occurred last Monday, on the eve of a visit by India’s new Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Ladakh in the north of the disputed territory which is also claimed by Pakistan. Gunmen raked a paramilitary vehicle with fire, seriously injuring seven paramilitary border guards. On Wednesday, the day after Modi’s visit during which he addressed Indian troops stationed in the heavily militarised region, gunmen killed two Indian police officers and a civilian. Since 1989, fighting between Indian forces and about a dozen rebel groups seeking independence or a merger of the territory with Pakistan has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.  Modi, in his speech in Ladakh accused Pakistan of “waging a proxy war of terrorism” by dispatching militants to fight against India. Pakistan denies such allegations. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan by a de-facto border known as the Line of Control or LoC and controlled separately by the nuclear-armed South Asian rivals. The nations have fought three wars, two over Kashmir, since 1947 when the subcontinent was partitioned at independence from Britain. The insurgency and long-running rivalry with Pakistan has made Indian-held Kashmir one of the world’s tensest regions. There are an estimated half a million troops deployed in Indian-occupied Kashmir. Violence has fallen in the region since 2004 when the two countries began a peace process, but there are sporadic rebel attacks on government forces while the region’s residents often accuse government forces of human rights abuses.