SRINAGAR: Government forces killed three suspected rebels during a fierce overnight gunfight in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK), the army said Thursday.
Soldiers and special police counter-insurgency forces surrounded a residential area where they suspected armed militants were hiding out, triggering a fierce exchange of fire.
One police officer said scores of residents came out of their houses shouting slogans demanding freedom from Indian rule and throwing stones at the soldiers to try to help the militants escape.
“Three rebels were killed and three weapons recovered from the site,” army spokesman, Colonel Rajesh Kalia said.
Witnesses said the army blew up the house where the rebels were hiding in Kakapora, around 30 kilometres south of the main city of Srinagar.
On Wednesday morning soldiers killed two rebels during a firefight in the northern Sopore area. Police said they were members of Kashmir’s largest rebel group Hizbul Mujahideen.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947 and both claim the territory in its entirety.
Rebel groups have for decades fought the roughly 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the territory, demanding independence or a merger with Pakistan.
Officials say dozens of young people have joined the rebels since last July, when the killing of a popular rebel commander by security forces sparked months of deadly anti-India protests.
Rebel attacks on government forces have increased since then amid intensified counter-insurgency operations by the army.