SRINAGAR, India (AP) — At least one paramilitary soldier and four suspected rebels were killed in a series of gunbattles in Indian-controlled Kashmir despite a security lockdown in the disputed region Monday as India celebrated the anniversary of its independence from British rule. Ten government troops were also wounded.
The Himalayan region has been under curfew for almost six weeks since the largest street protests in years erupted after Indian troops killed a top rebel leader, and security was tightened further in the week preceding India's Independence Day.
The first clash took place in the Nowhatta neighborhood of Srinagar, Kashmir's main city, when suspected rebels attacked troops on patrol to enforce the curfew. K.K. Sharma, a top official of the Central Reserve Paramilitary Force, said the gunbattle lasted several hours.
The second attack, similar in nature, took place in the Khanyar neighborhood.
Two rebels and one paramilitary soldier were killed, Sharma said. A local policeman and nine paramilitary troops were wounded, two of them critically, he said.
Two rebels were also fatally shot in a gunbattle with Indian troops in Uri, an area west of Srinagar. The army said the men had crossed the highly militarized Line of Control separating the Pakistani- and Indian-held portions of Kashmir.
Pakistan celebrated Independence Day on Sunday, and tens of thousands of Kashmiris on the Indian side rallied and hoisted Pakistani flags and chanted "Long Live Pakistan" and "Go India, go back."
At least 40 people were injured in clashes between rock-throwing protesters and government forces, who fired shotgun pellets and tear gas.
Kashmir's chief minister, Mehbooba Mufti, appealed for calm in her Independence Day speech Monday. The national flag fell on Mufti's head as she pulled the rope to unfurl it at a highly guarded soccer stadium in Srinagar, leading authorities to order an investigation to ascertain whether it was sabotage or negligence.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in its entirety by both.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training Kashmiri rebels who have been fighting for independence or for a merger with Pakistan since 1989. Pakistan denies the charge, saying it provides only moral and political support.
More than 68,000 people have been killed in the fighting and in a subsequent Indian military crackdown.