STORE

5 Kashmir rebels, 5 civilians killed in anti-India fighting

5 Kashmir rebels, 5 civilians killed in anti-India fighting
The Associated Press

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Government forces killed five rebels in fighting Sunday in Indian-controlled Kashmir, police said, while a second day of anti-India protests and clashes left five civilians dead and dozens of people injured in the disputed region.

Hundreds of villagers threw rocks at Indian troops in a bid to help rebels who were trapped in a house in southern Shopian area, police said. Counterinsurgency officers and soldiers cordoned the village following intelligence that a group of militants were hiding there, police said.

As the rebels and soldiers fought, government forces also fired bullets, shotgun pellets and tear gas at protesters trying to reach the gunbattle site. Five civilians were killed, one a teenage boy, and at least 50 others were wounded.

It was the second straight day of intense unrest in the region, which India and Pakistan administer parts of but both claim in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding Indian-controlled Kashmir be made part of Pakistan or become an independent country.

Most Kashmiris support the rebel cause while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations. Last year, at least 29 civilians were killed and hundreds were wounded during such clashes.

On Saturday, Indian troops killed three suspected rebels during a gunbattle in Srinagar, while one civilian was killed when a police armored vehicle ran over him during clashes with government forces. Another three men were killed in shootings the police blamed on rebels.

Businesses shuttered in most parts of Kashmir on Sunday after separatists called for a strike to protest the previous day’s deaths. Internet on mobile phones also remained suspended for the second day, a common practice by Indian authorities to make organizing protests difficult.

Armed police and paramilitary soldiers patrolled across the region and also enforced a security lockdown in old parts of Srinagar, the urban heart of anti-India protests.

In Sunday’s violence, protesting villagers made several attempts to reach the site where the rebels were trapped, barraging troops with rocks, bricks and abuse. They were trying to distract the soldiers who apart from guns and grenades also used explosives to blast the house where the rebels were cornered, residents and police said.

After several hours of fighting, five militants were killed and a policeman and a soldier wounded, said S.P. Vaid, police director-general. Among those slain were a top rebel commander and a university assistant professor who formally joined the militant ranks just two days before.

A statement by the University of Kashmir on Saturday said the sociology teacher, Mohammed Rafi Bhat, had been missing since Friday.

Vaid said they repeatedly asked the militants to surrender.

“We made every effort so that they surrender. We even brought the university teacher’s father all the way to Shopian. But they refused,” Vaid said.

Anti-India protests and clashes continued in the area and also spread to some other towns and villages of southern Kashmir.

Anticipating protests, the University of Kashmir on Sunday issued a statement saying the classes would remain suspended for the next two days “as a precautionary measure.”

In recent years, Kashmir has seen renewed rebel attacks and repeated public protests against Indian rule as a new generation of Kashmiri rebels, especially in the southern parts of the region, has revived the militancy and challenged New Delhi’s rule with guns and effective use of social media.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

.