Two Indian soldiers and three separatist fighters have been killed in a fierce gun battle in Indian-administered Kashmir, Agencies report.
Hundreds of Indian soldiers surrounded Awneera, a village about 50km south of the main city of Srinagar, on Saturday night following a tip-off about fighters in the area, AFP news agency reported.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. Both claim the territory in full. Muneer Khan, Kashmiri police chief, told Al Jazeera that fighting took place in the Shopian area.
“We laid the cordon yesterday evening after we received information about the presence of five militants,” he said, adding: “In the morning we were able to recover three bodies.” Khan said the three fighters belonged to the Hizbul Mujahideen group and were from nearby villages.
Three Indian soldiers were wounded in the fighting, Khan said. As news of the fighters’ deaths spread, hundreds of residents from neighbouring villages took to the streets in protest, throwing stones at soldiers and chanting slogans against Indian rule.
About a dozen villagers were injured. “People tried to march towards the site of the gunfight yesterday but there was a strong cordon,” said 29-year-old Irshad Ahmed.
Ahmed, a resident of the village of Awneera, said: “Today when the encounter ended, clashes [between police and protesters] started and many people suffered bullet and pellet injuries.
“People from all the adjoining villages came to protest the (killings) because they are all from the same district. How long can we bear this bloodshed, they are killing our brothers.”
Those wounded in the clashes were taken to a nearby hospital.
In a separate incident early on Sunday, fighters opened fire on an Indian army convoy in the northern area of Hajin and wounded two police officers and a soldier, said Khan.
On Saturday a civilian and a soldier were killed in gunfire between Indian and Pakistan soldiers along the heavily militarised de-facto border splitting Kashmir.
Officials say at least 130 fighters and 39 soldiers have died in clashes so far this year after the Indian army launched a major operation against armed groups in the southern part of the region.
The groups have battled Indian security forces since 1989 in Indian Kashmir, demanding independence or its merger with Pakistan. Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed.