SRINAGAR, India (AP) — A teenage boy was killed during anti-India protests in disputed Kashmir Wednesday following a gunbattle that killed three rebels, police said.
Indian troops laid cordon around a village near southern Tral town on a tip that militants were hiding in a civilian home, top police officer S.P. Vaid said. The militants tried to escape but soldiers gunned down them, he said.
As the fighting raged, anti-India protests erupted in Tral, leading to clashes between rock-throwing residents and government forces who fired shotgun pellets and tear gas. Many have been reported injured in the clashes while a teenage boy who was hit by pellets died in a hospital.
Anti-India protests and clashes were also reported in southern Pulwama town.
In an escalating deadly confrontation in the last 10 days, at least 19 rebels and five civilians have died in gunbattles and subsequent anti-India clashes between Kashmiri residents and Indian troops. Two Indian army soldiers have also been 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.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
In recent years, Kashmiris, mainly youths, have displayed open solidarity with anti-India rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations against the militants. 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 counterinsurgency operations.
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.