Protests erupt as India troops kill Kashmir rebels

Indian troops killed at least three Kashmiri suspected rebels in a gun battle in the disputed Himalayan region, officials said, slayings which led to another round of protests.

Fighting erupted in Indian-administered Kashmir after government forces raided a cluster of homes on a tip that rebels were hiding in northwestern Sopore area, Muneer Ahmed Khan, police inspector general, said on Saturday.

He said that as the soldiers began searching homes, they came under gunfire from rebels.

As the news of the killings spread, protests and clashes erupted in several parts of the region as residents chanted slogans against India and in favour of rebels who have fought against New Delhi’s rule since 1989.

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Soldiers fired at rock-throwing protesters in Bandipora area and wounded at least three civilians.

Tension has grown over the past week, with at least 10 rebels and four civilians killed in gunbattles and in protests.

Two Indian army soldiers were also killed in a rebel ambush.

Nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety.

Rebel groups demand that Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population and most people support the rebels’ cause against Indian rule.

Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

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In recent years, Kashmiris, mainly young people, have displayed open solidarity with anti-India rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations.

The anti-India protests and clashes have persisted despite the Indian army chief warning recently that “tough action” would be taken against stone throwers during counter attacks.

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.

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