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Jun 30, 7:51 AM EDT

Indian soldiers kill 2 rebels in Kashmir, battle protesters

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SRINAGAR, India (AP) -- Indian forces killed two suspected rebels in a clash Thursday in Indian-controlled Kashmir, and dispersed hundreds of protesters who took to the streets to show their solidarity with the rebels, an official said.

Paramilitary officer Nalin Prabhat said the fighting erupted in the southern Pulwama area following reports that some militants were hiding there.

He said the rebels hurled grenades and sprayed gunfire at the soldiers in an attempt to escape before they were shot dead. Government forces were searching for a third insurgent who they believed fled during the fighting.

Hundreds of residents of nearby villages clashed with troops in support of the rebels. Police fired tear gas to disperse the rock-throwing protesters. No injuries were reported.

Rebel groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with neighboring Pakistan. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, which both claim the entire region.

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