SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Indian troops killed three suspected rebels during a gunbattle Saturday in the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir, officials said, while police blamed insurgents for killing three other men in the disputed region.
Counterinsurgency police and paramilitary soldiers raided a cluster of homes in a densely populated neighborhood of Srinagar after getting a tip that militants were hiding there, police said. Troops asked the trapped militants to surrender but they instead started shooting and sparked a gunbattle, police said.
S.P. Vaid, police director-general, told reporters that the three militants were killed in a “clean” operation.
Earlier, as the trapped rebels and government troops traded gunfire, anti-India protests and clashes erupted at several places.
Hundreds of residents tried to march to the gunbattle site and threw rocks at troops in order to help the militants escape. They chanted pro-rebel slogans such as “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom.”
Police and paramilitary soldiers fired shotgun pellets and tear gas to stop the protesters.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it 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. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Most Kashmiris support the rebels’ 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 wounded during such clashes.
During Saturday’s fierce clashes, a vehicle belonging to Indian troops ran over and killed a man, residents said. Police called the incident a “road accident” and said they were investigating the death of the man, who succumbed to injuries at a hospital.
Top separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq called the young man’s death a murder.
“How a murder was committed by the forces today and then brazenly denied! Is there no sense of humanity left in India?” Farooq wrote on Twitter, as he also uploaded a video which shows an armored vehicle knocking down a youth.
Injuries were reported to at least two protesters, three journalists, three soldiers and a police officer.
Authorities snapped internet services on mobile phones in Srinagar, in a common practice the government deploys to calm tensions and to prevent anti-India demonstrations from being organized. Most shops also shut in the city.
Meanwhile, gunmen abducted two men from their homes in northern Hajin town late Friday. Their bodies, riddled with bullets, were recovered early Saturday.
Also, gunmen entered a civilian home in Sopore area and sprayed bullets at the residents, police said, leading to death of a young man. His wife was critically wounded.
Police accused militants for carrying out these killings, though no rebel group has claimed responsibility.