Massive anti-India protests erupt in India-administered Kashmir after fierce fighting between rebels and Indian soldiers leave at least 13 rebels, three army soldiers and four civilians dead.
Deadly protests against Indian rule erupted in several parts of India-administered Kashmir on Sunday following the killings of at least 13 suspected rebels in fighting with Indian troops, officials said.
At least three army soldiers and four civilians were also killed in the fighting and subsequent protests. Over 150 people were wounded in the clashes between protesters and the Indian police, local media reported.
The new round of anti-India protests and clashes comes after Indian troops launched deadly counter-insurgency operations targeting mainly the southern parts of Kashmir, where new-age rebels have revived the armed rebellion and challenged New Delhi's rule with guns and effective use of social media.
The gun battles in southern Kashmir began overnight after Indian troops raided two villages following a tip that rebels were hiding there and came under fire, police said.
Police said the rebels tried to escape from a security cordon while firing their guns and grenades but were killed in the ensuing fighting.
At least 12 rebels, including some commanders, were killed in two separate gun battles in the Shopian area, while one rebel was killed and another captured in Anantnag, said the region's top police officer S P Vaid.
Three Indian soldiers were killed and at least six police and soldiers were wounded, Vaid said.
While eight of the dead rebels were identified as local cadres of Kashmir's largest rebel group, Hizbul Mujahideen, Indian troops were still clearing off the rubble of a destroyed house at a third gun battle site where bodies of three rebels were lying, Vaid said.
Local residents said soldiers blasted several civilian homes with explosives while fighting the rebels.
No rebel group fighting against Indian rule immediately issued any statement about Sunday's fighting.
TRT World's Baba Umar speaks on the latest situation in the region.
Massive protests in solidarity with rebels
As the fighting raged, anti-India protests erupted in several villages in southern Kashmir in solidarity with the rebels.
Many protesters shouting slogans like "Go India, go back" and "We want freedom" also tried to march to the gun battle sites to help the trapped rebels escape, leading to clashes between rock-throwing residents and Indian troops who fired live ammunition, shotgun pellets and tear gas.
According to hospital officials and police, dozens of civilians were injured in the ongoing clashes.
Some critically injured were shifted to hospitals in the region's main city of Srinagar.
India soldiers also fired on the funeral of a rebel fighter, wounding at least 15 civilians, Rising Kashmir reported. It said 34 civilians were hospitalised for pellet wounds received during clashes with Indian forces in several districts.
More havoc for #Kashmiris who are at the receiving end of execution and repression as the toll of civilians brutally killed has risen to 2 while 8 militants have been martyred,100s of people injured and many hit in the eye by pellets used by Indian forces in #Shopian.— Mirwaiz Umar Farooq (@MirwaizKashmir) April 1, 2018
Indian army warns rebels
Authorities stopped train services and cut cellphone internet services in the most restive towns, and reduced connection speeds in other parts of the Kashmir Valley, a common practice aimed to calm tensions and prevent anti-India demonstrations from being organised.
They also ordered curfews in some southern areas.
Several protests and clashes also erupted in Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir.
The Indian army's chief in Kashmir, Lt Gen A K Bhatt, warned the rebels to give up their arms or they would be "neutralised."
"Anybody who uses weapons (against the state) will be dealt with in the same manner we dealt with the terrorists today," Bhatt told reporters.
Pakistan condemns 'vicious' killings
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi called the killings "vicious", in a statement on Sunday.
"Indian attempts to label the legitimate Kashmir struggle terrorism cannot deter the valiant people of Jammu and Kashmir (or India-administered Kashmir) from their demand of exercising their right to self determination in accordance with the UN Security Council resolutions," Abbasi said.
Pakistan also called upon the UNSC secretary general to appoint a special representative for the region, "where India, encouraged by the silence of the international community, continues to kill with impunity."
Growing support for rebels
In recent years, Kashmiris, mainly youths, have displayed open solidarity with anti-India rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations against the rebels.
The anti-India protests and clashes have persisted despite the Indian army chief warning recently that tough action would be taken against stone throwers during counter-insurgency operations.
Pro-Independence leaders who challenge India's sovereignty over Kashmir have called for a shutdown on Monday against the killings.
Nuclear-armed Pakistan and India each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, which in recent years has seen renewed rebel attacks and repeated public protests against Indian rule.
Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding Kashmir be made part of Pakistan or become an independent country. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Most Kashmiris support the rebels' cause against Indian rule while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.
Nearly 100,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.