At least seven civilians were killed and nearly three dozens wounded as Indian troops fired at anti-India protesters in India-administered Kashmir after a gun battle left three rebels and a soldier dead.
At least seven civilians were killed and nearly three dozens wounded when government forces fired at anti-India protesters in disputed Kashmir following a gun battle that left three militants dead on Saturday, police and local media said.
Indian troops laid a siege around a village in Pulwama area on a tip that militants were hiding there. As the soldiers began searching for the militants, gunfire erupted, leaving three rebels and a soldier dead.
Hundreds of people marched near the site in solidarity with the rebels while chanting pro-militant slogans and seeking an end of Indian rule over the Himalayan region.
Indian police and paramilitary forces fired bullets, shotgun pellets and tear gas at the stone-throwing protesters, killing seven civilians and wounding over three dozen protesters, the Kashmir Press reported.
The killings sparked more protests and clashes at several places in the area.
Residents accused troops of directly spraying gunfire into the crowds.
"They (Indian troops) fired at us as if they were practicing their guns," said Shabir Ahmed, a local resident who accompanied some wounded taken to a hospital in Srinagar, the region’s main city.
Pro-Independence groups called for strikes and protest march to one of region's largest army cantonments hosting thousands of Indian soldiers.
Kashmir's popular resistance leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq called for a march towards Srinagar's city's Badami Bagh army cantonment on Monday "to ask GOI [Government of India] to kill all of us at one time rather than killing us daily."
#PulwamaMassacre,Bullets and pellets rain!As Govt of India has decided to kill Kashmiri’s through its #ArmedForces who control us,JRL and people will march towards Badami Bagh Army cantonment on Monday 17 Dec to ask GOI to kill all of us at one time rather than killing us daily..— Mirwaiz Umar Farooq (@MirwaizKashmir) December 15, 2018
Two police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to talk to the media, said the two civilians were killed in the anti-India protests.
However, resident Ubaid Ahmed said that soldiers in an armoured vehicle fired at a small group of civilians away from the site of the battle, and as the vehicle jammed on a roadside, the troops fatally shot one of them.
At least 238 militants, 150 members of Indian soliders and police, and 147 civilians have died in the armed conflict so far this year, the deadliest since 2009.
Bloodbath in #Pulwama.— Irfan Mehraj (@IrfanMeraj) December 15, 2018
7 civilains shot dead by Indian armed forces along with 3 militants. Reports coming in say 50 people injured while a few are critical.
People chat slogans of Azadi after a civilian Abid Ahmad's dead body is escorted out of the hospital.#Kashmir pic.twitter.com/M1F1DLBWCR
Support for rebels' cause
India and Pakistan each claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety.
Most Kashmiris support the rebel cause that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control.
India, which has deployed over 500,000 troops in the tiny Muslim-majority region, accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Nearly 100,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.