SRINAGAR (AFP) – At least sixteen people have been killed in Indian Kashmir in some of the fiercest fighting this year in the restive Himalayan region, police said yesterday.
A total of three Indian soldiers and 11 suspected militants died in several clashes south of Srinagar, the main city of the region divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both.
Two civilians were also killed and dozens injured when police opened fire on thousands of demonstrators who poured onto the streets, throwing stones and chanting slogans against Indian rule.
There were also demonstrations in Srinagar, where authorities ordered all schools shut today as rebel groups called for protests.
Seven of the militants were killed along with two soldiers in a protracted shootout in the village of Dragad.
Another man, described by Indian authorities as a militant, was gunned down in a brief exchange of fire in Dialgam.
Many civilians in Kashmir – India’ s only Muslim-majority state – support rebels who have been fighting for decades for independence or for a merger with Pakistan. Tens of thousands, mostly civilians, have died.
Pakistan condemned the violence as “mindless killing spree” and said those killed were innocents.
Last year was the deadliest of this decade in the region, with more than 200 alleged militants killed.
That upsurge in violence has escalated in 2018, with 49 militants already killed this year.
The weekend clashes were the worst since a three-day skirmish in the forests of northern Kashmir last month left ten dead – five unidentified militants and five government forces.
Kashmir has been divided between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947.