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Two suspected rebels killed in Indian Kashmir


Maoist rebels in India

Indian rebel

Indian soldiers Tuesday killed two suspected militants in Indian Kashmir after police and troops battled scores of stone-throwing residents who were trying to help the rebels escape, police said.

The soldiers came under fire after they surrounded Ratnipora village, 35 kilometres (21 miles) south of the main city of Srinagar, overnight Monday following a tip-off that militants were in the area.

Hundreds of villagers poured onto the streets when the gunbattle resumed at first light, throwing rocks at police and chanting “We want freedom!” a police officer said on condition of anonymity.

Officers fired tear gas and live rounds into the air to disperse the crowds before soldiers finally gunned down the militants in paddy fields, the officer said.

“Two terrorists were killed, and the encounter has ended. Both are locals,” said Javaid Gillani, inspector general of police for the region, adding that a policeman was injured.

“There was a lot of stone pelting in the area,” Gillani told AFP.

Demonstrators continued to hurl rocks later in the day, prompting Indian Border Security Force (BSF) soldiers to fire more shots which killed one of the protesters, local police said.

“Following the gun battle, a BSF deployment came under heavy stone throwing… (they) fired in response in which one protester was killed,” Nitish Kumar, deputy inspector general of police for the region, told AFP.

Government forces have been on heightened alert in the southern Kashmir valley, where police say sizeable and locally trained armed groups have been operating for months.

In July a group of 11 armed militants wearing army fatigues posed for photos and a video which were posted on Facebook.

Since 1989 several rebel groups have been fighting hundreds of thousands of Indian forces deployed in the region. They seek either independence or a merger of the disputed territory with Pakistan.

The fighting has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the South Asian rivals gained independence from Britain in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in full.

Violence in the region has steadily declined since the early 2000s, but battles between government forces and rebels are still frequent.

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