SRINAGAR : Two Apple truck drivers were shot dead and their vehicles set on fire in held Kashmir, police said on Friday, in the latest attack on the vital local fruit industry which has been pulled into the conflict between militants and New Delhi.

The nearly $2 billion apple trade has been caught between militants wanting a shutdown of the local economy in protest at India's actions, and new Delhi which wants to restore normality.

Last week two apple traders and a driver - all three also from outside Kashmir - were killed in two separate attacks by militants in the same region, known for its vast orchards.

Gunman also shot and wounded a local apple trader and a five year old girl last month in northern Sopore area.

The held valley's apple sector - currently in harvest season - is vital to the local economy, employing more than three million people directly or indirectly.

Although the authorities said roughly 10,000 Apple trucks left the valley last week trade remains largely subdued, with many farmers voluntarily allowing the crop to rot on trees as a mark of resistance against New Delhi's August decision.

India's Supreme Court on Thursday told the government to provide a timeline on restrictions as it heard petitions challenging government's gag order on communications. The court fixed the next date of hearing on Nov 5. [Agencies]


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