Five police dead in Indian Kashmir attack: official

Militants disguised as cricketers killed five paramilitary police in an ambush in the main city of Indian Kashmir on Wednesday, senior officers said.

Two gunmen, suspected to be from one of the pro-Pakistan or separatist groups active locally, were shot dead at the scene, an open area of land in the Bemina district of Srinagar where children were playing cricket.

A senior police officer, speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity, told AFP the militants pretended to be coming for a game but then took out weapons from a cricket bag, opened fire and threw a grenade at a group of unarmed officers.

"They first mixed up with the children playing cricket," said the officer, who was not authorised to speak to the media.

Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah confirmed in the local assembly that five officers from the Central Reserve Police Force had been killed and five had been injured.

"This was a suicide attack," he said.

The last major suicide mission in Srinagar was in January 2010 when militants from the pro-Pakistan militant group Jamiat-ul-Mujahedin opened fire in the centre of the city and took refuge in a hotel on the main street.

Both militants were killed, as well as a police officer and a bystander.

Indian Kashmir, where a 20-year separatist insurgency has waned in recent years, has been tense since the execution in February of a local man over a deadly 2001 attack on the national parliament in New Delhi.

Mohammed Afzal Guru, a local separatist, was convicted over the attack, but he retained widespread support in Kashmir where many doubted his guilt.

Much of Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both, has since been put under curfew repeatedly while protests and strikes have disrupted daily life.

Chief Minister Abdullah has argued recently that the Indian government should withdraw draconian emergency laws that cover Kashmir and give security forces near-complete legal immunity.

The attack will likely undermine his campaign, which he sees as necessary to diffuse local resentment about human rights abuses and heavy-handed policing by the hundreds of thousands of troops in the region.

Attacks in Srinagar have become rare in recent years.

Last October, gunmen opened fired on a popular hotel, killing a bellboy and leaving at least two other people injured.

In early December 2004, militants stormed a police camp in the town of Sopore, also killing five officers.