SRINAGAR, India – Government forces fired at protesters Tuesday in Indian-controlled Kashmir, killing a teenage boy and wounding nearly two dozen more who had been trying to reach the site of a gunbattle in which soldiers killed two rebels, police and residents said.
Hundreds of villagers, shouting slogans eulogizing militants and demanding an end to Indian rule over the disputed region, threw stones at Indian troops in a bid to help rebels who were trapped in a civilian home in a neighborhood of southern Shopian area, police said. Counterinsurgency police and soldiers cordoned the area following intelligence that militants were hiding there, police said.
As the rebels and soldiers fought, government forces also fired bullets, shotgun pellets and tear gas at the protesters who tried to reach the gunbattle site. Nearly two dozen civilians were injured in the clashes. One among the two critically injured later died in a hospital.
Officials said two rebels were killed and a military officer and a second soldier were injured in the fighting.
Local residents said soldiers blasted two civilian homes with explosives as the combatants exchanged gunfire.
Most Kashmiris support the rebels' cause while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. In recent years, mainly young Kashmiris have displayed open solidarity with rebels and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations.
Kashmir has also seen renewed rebel attacks and repeated public protests against Indian rule in last few years as a new generation of Kashmiri rebels, especially in the southern parts of the region, has revived the militancy and challenged New Delhi's rule with guns and effective use of social media.
India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989, demanding that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.