Indian forces have killed three alleged rebels in an Indian-administered Kashmir shooting, officials said, which sparked protests against India and clashes between troops and residents.
The Indian army said Wednesday that rebels opened fire on soldiers and police as counterinsurgency troops surrounded a neighborhood in the southern city of Pulwama at a point some rebels were hiding there.
Troops retaliated and trapped the rebels in a house, according to a military statement. Three fighters were killed in the eight-hour operation and two rifles and a pistol were recovered from the scene, according to the statement.
Villagers said troops fired on one house and detonated another with explosives, an anti-robbery tactic used by Indian troops in the disputed Himalayan region.
Authorities issued a curfew in the town of Pulwama and cut off Internet access to mobile phone services, a tactic aimed at hindering the organization of protests against India and discouraging the dissemination of protest videos.
Shortly after the attack, protesters against India threw stones at government forces and chanted slogans seeking an end to Indian rule over the region. Government forces fired tear gas at protesters. No one was reported injured during the clashes.
Locals said government troops detained several people and forced them to sit in front of them as shields during the clashes.
Wednesday’s fighting comes amid escalating violence in the region, which is split between India and Pakistan, and rivals with nuclear weapons are calling for it in full.
Last week, authorities in the region also fired 11 cashmere from their government jobs for alleged links to rebel groups. They included two children of a senior Kashmir rebel commander based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and two police officers.
Kashmiris have been fighting the Indian government since 1989. Most people in the Muslim-majority region support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
India says the Kashmir rebellion is “Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.” Pakistan denies the accusation and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate struggle for freedom.
Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have died in the conflict.