Indian troops kill five rebels in Kashmir fighting

SRINAGAR, INDIA (AP) — Government forces killed at least five rebels during a gunbattle in disputed Kashmir yesterday, sparking violent anti-India protests by residents, the Indian army and locals said.

Army soldiers and counterinsurgency police surrounded a village in the southern Shopian area early yesterday following a tip that militants were hiding there, said Colonel Rajesh Kalia, an Indian army spokesperson.

Searches by troops triggered an exchange of gunfire that killed five militants, Kalia said.

The fighting sparked protests and clashes as hundreds of residents tried to march to the site of the battle in solidarity with rebels.

Chanting slogans in favour of the militants and demanding an end to Indian rule over Kashmir, the demonstrators threw stones at police and paramilitary soldiers, who fired shotgun pellets and tear gas to quell the protests. No casualties were immediately reported in the daylong clashes.

Locals said troops destroyed at least one house with explosives, a common anti-militancy tactic employed by Indian troops in Kashmir.

India has stepped up its counterinsurgency operations across Kashmir in recent months during a nationwide coronavirus lockdown. Militants have also continued their attacks on government forces and alleged informants.