Two pro-independence rebels and an Indian policeman were killed in the town of Tral sparking anti-India protests. Demonstrators, who tried to march to the site of the fighting, were stopped with controversial pellet shotguns.

Indian officials say civilian interference has helped 25 rebels escape from gun battle sites since 2016.
Indian officials say civilian interference has helped 25 rebels escape from gun battle sites since 2016.

Anti-India protests erupted in Indian-controlled Kashmir following a fierce gun battle in which two rebels and an Indian policeman were killed, officials said on Sunday.

Government forces, acting on a tip, encircled a civilian home in the southern Tral area overnight, said police chief SP Vaid. He said fighting erupted after rebels hurled grenades and fired automatic rifles to break the security cordon.

Two rebels and a policeman working with the counterinsurgency unit were killed, he said. At least three other government soldiers, including an army officer, were wounded.

No rebel group immediately issued any statement.

TRT World spoke to Srinagar-based journalist Parvaiz Bukhari, who explains how increasing sympathy for rebels is complicating security operations.

Supporting rebels

As the fighting raged, clashes erupted between government forces and local protesters, who tried to march to the site of the fighting in solidarity with the rebels.

Troops fired controversial shotgun pellets and tear gas to stop the rock-throwing protesters.

Last month the Indian army chief warned stone-pelting civilians, saying the army will use weapons against those trying to help rebels escape.

Local newspaper Kashmir Life reported scenes of agitated people trying to get closer to the battle site "but they are not being permitted which has turned the situation slightly tense."

Indian officials say civilian interference has helped 25 rebels escape from gun battle sites since 2016.

Protests flared after Indian soldiers killed a popular rebel leader Burhan Wani last July sparking five months of deadly anti-India protests in the region. Around 100 civilians were killed and close to 7,000 suffered pellet injuries - many of them in the eyes - blinding them completely or partially.

Rivals Pakistan and India each administer a portion of Kashmir, but both claim the disputed Himalayan territory in its entirety. Most people in the Indian-controlled portion favour independence or a merger with Pakistan.

Rebels of almost a dozen groups have been fighting over half-a-million Indian troops since 1989. Rights groups and unofficial estimates say around 100,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising and ensuing Indian military crackdown.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies