SRINAGAR, India (AP) — A young man was killed on Saturday during anti-India protests in disputed Kashmir following a gunbattle that killed two rebels, police and locals said.
Hours after the deadly fighting, rebels ambushed police vehicles in the region, killing one police officer and wounding another.
Indian troops cordoned off southern Litter village on a tip that militants were hiding in a civilian home, said top police officer Muneer Ahmed Khan.
He said the militants tried to escape from the security cordon while firing their guns but soldiers gunned them down in retaliation.
Khan said one of the dead militants was a top commander.
As the fighting raged, anti-India protests erupted in Litter and neighboring villages in solidarity with the militants, leading to clashes between rock-throwing residents and government forces, who fired bullets, shotgun pellets and tear gas to quell the protests.
Many were reported injured in the clashes while a civilian who was hit by bullets died in a hospital. One of the injured was reported to be in critical condition.
Khan said the civilian was killed in crossfire between soldiers and militants. However, residents rejected the police claim, saying the civilian was killed after soldiers fired on anti-India protesters.
Later Saturday, a police officer was killed and another injured after rebels sprayed gunfire at two police vehicles passing through the southern Kulgam area, police said.
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.
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.