India’s forces have killed three militants in a fierce firefight in the New Delhi-controlled part of Kashmir, and injured dozens of civilians during a crackdown on the ensuing protest rally there in solidarity with the pro-independence fighters.
Police Inspector-General Muneer Ahmed Khan said on Tuesday that the gun battle erupted on Monday when soldiers and counterinsurgency police raided the southern village of Bahmnoo village on a tip that militants were hiding there.
Witnesses said three residential homes were blown up and destroyed by the government forces during the fighting.
Khan said the army troops were searching for the body of a fourth militant in the debris.
The daylong fighting also wounded at least six police and soldiers.
Afterwards, hundreds of civilians staged a rally near the site to help the militants trapped in the operation area escape, chanting slogans such as “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom.”
The protest turned violent as the government troops fired bullets, shotgun pellets and tear gas to stop the march by rock-throwing demonstrators.
The clashes left at least 35 civilians injured, with five of them bearing bullet wounds.
The Muslim-majority region has witnessed an increase in mass protests and violent attacks since early July 2016, when Burhan Wani, a top figure in a pro-independence group, was killed in a shootout with Indian troops.
Thousands of government troops have been deployed to the region and nearly 90 people have lost their lives and more than 12,000 wounded in the ensuing crackdown.
The government crackdown has failed to halt the protests against the Indian rule in Kashmir.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both since the two partitioned and gained independence from Britain in 1947. The two countries have fought three wars over the disputed territory.