GOPALPUR, India, Oct 11, (Agencies): A Kashmiri scholar turned rebel leader and his colleague were killed Thursday in a gun battle with Indian troops, police and residents said, sparking violent anti-India protests by residents in the disputed region. Indian troops laid siege to a village in northwestern Handwara area early Thursday on a tip that militants were hiding there, police said.
As counterinsurgency police and soldiers launched a search operation, a gunfight erupted in which two rebels were killed. Anti-India protests and clashes erupted as the fighting raged, with hundreds of residents trying to march to the site in solidarity with the militants.
Government forces fired warning shots, shotgun pellets and tear gas at the stone-throwing protesters, injuring at least four people. The gun battle ended later Thursday morning and soldiers immediately recovered the bodies of the two militants.
Muneer Khan, a senior police officer, said one of the slain was identified by his parents as top rebel leader Manan Wani, the newspaper Greater Kashmir reported. Wani was pursuing a doctorate in geology at an Indian university when he abandoned his research in January to join the Hizbul Mujahedeen, Kashmir’s largest rebel group.
He soon became a household name and attained the status of a thinker among the rebels who penned articles, arguing such things as why he preferred guns over pens and the nature of the fight in one of the world’s most heavily militarized regions.