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.