SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Eight rebels and two Indian soldiers were killed in gunbattles in disputed Kashmir that sparked violent anti-India protests by residents seeking an end to Indian rule in the region, officials said Friday.
Indian troops laid siege to a village in northwestern Sopore area on Friday, leading to an exchange of gunfire in which two militants and a soldier were killed, police said.
Government forces engaged militants at two places in the contested region on Thursday after troops launched counterinsurgency operations resulting in the death of six militants, the Indian military said. One soldier was wounded in the fighting.
The gunbattles triggered large anti-India protests and clashes as thousands of people marched near the sites of the fighting in solidarity with rebels for a second day Friday amid funerals of the rebels attended by tens of thousands of people.
Government forces fired warning shots, shotgun pellets and tear gas at the stone-throwing protesters, injuring at least a dozen people.
Militants also attacked an army camp in southern Tral area, killing a soldier and wounding another late Thursday.
Violence has escalated in the region since last week, with daily fighting between Kashmiri rebels and Indian troops that triggered protests and clashes against Indian rule. Anger exploded in the region after the killing on Sunday of seven civilians in an explosion after three rebels died in a gunfight in the southern Kulgam area.
India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety.
Most Kashmiris support rebel demands that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country, while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with the rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations.
Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
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