SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Three suspected rebels and a 45-year-old woman were killed Thursday during a gunbattle between government forces and anti-India rebels in disputed Kashmir, officials said, triggering anti-India protests and clashes in the region's main city.
The gunfight erupted shortly after scores of counterinsurgency police and soldiers launched an operation based on a tip about the presence of militants in a Srinagar neighborhood, Pankaj Singh, an Indian paramilitary spokesman, said.
Singh said the fighting left three militants dead and a paramilitary officer wounded. He said a local woman also was killed in the exchange of gunfire. No other details were immediately available about the civilian’s killing.
As the fighting raged, many residents marched near the site in solidarity with the rebels and chanted slogans seeking an end to Indian rule over the region. Government forces fired shotgun pellets and tear gas at the stone-throwing protesters.
No casualties were immediately reported in the clashes.
Thursday’s killings came a day after a young man died hours after being detained by police, triggering anti-India protests in the northwestern Sopore area. The man’s family said police tortured him to death and later dumped his body in an open area.
Police said the man was a militant aide and escaped from police custody before he was found dead.
From January to August this year, government forces killed about 180 militants during counterinsurgency operations, according to the Jammu-Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a rights group. It said official data showed that over half of those killed had joined the rebels less than a year ago, and most had been active for only a few months.
At least 68 government personnel and 46 civilians also were killed during the period, the rights group said.
The violence comes during more than a year of near-daily clashes between Pakistani and Indian soldiers along the highly militarized frontier that divides Kashmir between the two nuclear-armed rivals. Scores of soldiers and civilians have died on both sides.
Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in its entirety. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
Armed rebels have fought Indian rule since 1989, which New Delhi calls Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris call it a legitimate freedom struggle.
Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.