Anti-India protests in Kashmir after troops kill 2 rebels

Indian police men use their shields during clashes with Kashmiri protesters in Srinagar, India, Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. Police say government forces have killed two rebels during a gunbattle in the outskirts of disputed Kashmir's main city, sparking violent anti-India protests by residents. (AP Photo/Dar Yasin)

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Government forces killed two rebels during a gunbattle on the outskirts of disputed Kashmir’s main city on Wednesday, sparking violent anti-India protests by residents, police said.

Indian troops laid siege to a neighborhood in Srinagar following a tip that militants were hiding there, police said.

The searches by troops triggered an exchange of gunfire resulting in the deaths of two militants and injuries to four soldiers and two counterinsurgency policemen.

Residents said Indian troops burned a civilian home where the rebels took refuge during the fighting.

The fighting sparked protests and clashes as residents tried to march to the site of the battle in solidarity with the militants. Chanting slogans in favor of the militants and demanding an end to Indian rule over Kashmir, the demonstrators threw stones at police and paramilitary soldiers, who fired warning shots, shotgun pellets and tear gas to quell the protests. At least half a dozen people were injured.

Later Wednesday, thousands participated in the funerals of slain militants in the villages in southern Kashmir. Some armed associates turned up at the funeral of one of the slain rebels, Sabzar Sofi, and fired their guns in air to salute their fallen comrade amid loud pro-freedom slogans from the mourners, witnesses said. Sofi was a doctorate student before joining the militants and his death triggered protests and clashes in his home area.

Authorities suspended internet service on cellphones and ordered schools shut in Srinagar, a common tactic to discourage further protests and dissemination of protest videos.

Separatist leaders who challenge India’s sovereignty over Kashmir called for a general strike on Thursday to protest the killings. In a statement, the leaders said “India’s stubbornness and repressive policies in Kashmir are forcing the educated youth toward the path of armed resistance and martyrdom.”

The region witnessed massive anger, anti-India protests and shutdowns amid a security lockdown following the killing Sunday of seven civilians in an explosion after three local rebels died in a gunfight in the southern Kulgam area.

Last week, two local rebels, a civilian and a counterinsurgency police official were killed in fighting in Srinagar.

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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