SRINAGAR / AP
Four suspected rebels, two Indian army soldiers and a civilian have been killed in a fierce gunbattle in Indian-controlled Kashmir, officials said on Sunday.
The fighting began after police and soldiers cordoned off the southern village of Frisal overnight following a tip that militants were hiding in a house, said police Inspector-General Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani.
He said the militants sprayed automatic gunfire to break the cordon, leading to an exchange of gunfire with police and soldiers that killed four militants and two soldiers.
The Indian army said three soldiers were injured. According to residents, government forces blasted the house with explosives.
Police also recovered the body of a civilian, reportedly the young son of the house owner, from the debris.
As the fighting raged, clashes erupted between government forces and neighboring villagers at several localities who tried to march to Frisal in solidarity with militants. Troops fired bullets, shotgun pellets and tear gas canisters to stop the rock-throwing protesters.
At least 30 civilians were injured in the clashes.
Militants fighting against Indian rule have wide support among Kashmir’s Muslims, who often protest in the streets during security operations to help militants escape.
Kashmir is divided between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan. Both counties claim the disputed territory in its entirety.
Rebels have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. More than 68,000 people have been killed in the uprising and Indian military crackdown.