Seven suspected militants killed in Kashmir fighting

SRINAGAR, INDIA (AP) — Seven suspected militants were killed and four soldiers wounded in two separate gunfights in Indian-controlled Kashmir, officials said yesterday, triggering anti-India protests and clashes in the disputed region.

Militants hid inside a mosque as government forcers cordoned off a neighbourhood in southern Shopian town on Thursday, police said. The gunmen refused to surrender, triggering a fight that ended yesterday, police said.

Lieutenant Colonel Emron Musavi, an Indian army spokesman, said five militants were killed while three soldiers and an army officer were wounded. As the fighting raged, Shopian residents on both days marched near the clash site in solidarity with the rebels and chanting slogans seeking an end of Indian rule. Government forces fired shotgun pellets and tear gas at the stone-throwing protesters.

There were no reports of any casualties. Separately in southern Tral area, government forces killed two rebels in a brief battle yesterday, Musavi said. He said troops recovered seven rifles and two pistols.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the territory in its entirety.

Many Kashmiris support the rebel goal that the region be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Pakistan denies India’s charges that it is sponsoring terrorism in Kashmir. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.

Indian army soldiers leave the site of a gunbattle in Pulwama, south of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir. PHOTO: AP