Police: Gunmen kill 5 Indian laborers in Kashmir

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SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Gunmen shot and killed five Indian laborers working in India-controlled Kashmir late Tuesday, police said.

The shooting was in an apparent protest of New Delhi's stripping the disputed region of its semi-autonomous status in early August.

Gunmen also shot and critically injured one more laborer near a southern Kulgam district town, senior police officer Muneer Ahmed Khan said.

The laborers were staying at their rented accommodation when a group of six militants barged inside the two rented rooms and shot them dead after taking them to some distance, said a police officer speaking on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Five of the laborers succumbed to their injuries, while one has been taken to the hospital in a critical condition, the officer said.

Three other laborers are missing, the officer said.

Police said the deceased were from eastern West Bengal state, and they have started to vacate non-local laborers from the area.

The attack happened on a day when a group of European Parliament members arrived in Indian-controlled Kashmir, the first foreign delegation to travel to the disputed region since India's surprise decision on Aug. 5.

The delegation is the first foreign group to visit Kashmir since then.

The August decision was accompanied by a harsh crackdown, with New Delhi sending tens of thousands of additional troops to the already heavily militarized region, imposing a sweeping curfew, arresting thousands and cutting virtually all communications.

Authorities have since eased restrictions, lifting roadblocks and restoring landlines and some cellphone services. They have encouraged students to return to school and businesses to reopen. But Kashmiris have largely stayed home, in defiance or fear amid threats of violence.

As the crackdown continues, Kashmiris have quietly refused to resume their normal lives, confounding India at their own economic expense.

In recent weeks, a least 10 non-local laborers and truck drivers have been killed by gunmen in separate incidents. Police have blamed militants for the killings.

Gunmen have targeted apple traders and truck drivers who drive away with the apple consignment from the southern Shopian area in Kashmir.

Kashmir's apple orchards provide a livelihood for nearly half the region's 8 million people. Apple growers and traders are suffering losses as insurgent groups are putting pressure on traders and drivers to shun the industry to protest India's crackdown.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both in its entirety. The two countries have fought two wars over control of the region.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebels who have been fighting for Kashmir's independence or its merger with Pakistan since 1989. Islamabad rejects India's charge and says it only provides moral and diplomatic support. About 70,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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