SRINAGAR: Large anti-India clashes erupted in disputed Kashmir on Tuesday after government forces killed two senior militants in a gunbattle and fatally shot a protester during an ensuing protest demanding an end to Indian rule.
Police inspector-general Muneer Ahmed Khan said the two militants were killed after police and soldiers on a tip cordoned off southern Hakripora village early Tuesday.
Khan said the trapped militants attacked the troops with gunfire, triggering a gunbattle which lasted for at least two hours.
Villagers said troops blasted two civilian homes with explosives during the operation.
As the gunbattle raged, residents defied the security lockdown and clashed with government forces near the site of the fighting in an attempt to help the trapped militants escape.
A young man was killed and dozens of others were injured in the clashes.
Large protests and clashes against Indian rule spread to several other places across Kashmir, including the Himalayan region’s main city of Srinagar, as students boycotted classes and hit the streets.
Troops fired shotgun pellets and tear gas to stop rock-throwing protesters.
Authorities closed all educational institutions for a day Tuesday as a “precautionary measure,” said Baseer Khan, a top civilian administrator.
Officials also blocked internet service in the region to stop activists from using social media to rally support against Indian rule.
Police described one of the slain militants as a top commander of the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. India blames the group for a 2008 attack that left 166 people dead in India’s commercial capital of Mumbai.
Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety. Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for the Indian-administered portion to become independent or merge with Pakistan. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population and most people support the rebels’ cause against Indian rule.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, which Pakistan denies.
Rebel groups have largely been suppressed by Indian forces in recent years and public opposition to Indian rule is now principally expressed through street protests.