SRINAGAR, India – At least seven rebels and an Indian army soldier were killed in gunbattles in disputed Kashmir, triggering violent protests by residents opposed to Indian rule, officials said Saturday.
Army soldiers and counterinsurgency police cordoned off a neighborhood in the suburbs of southern Shopian town overnight, leading to an exchange of fire with rebels, police said. One militant was killed overnight while four more died early Saturday.
The fighting sparked protests and clashes as hundreds of residents tried to march to the site of the battle to help the militants escape. Government forces fired warning shots, shotgun pellets and tear gas at the stone-throwing protesters, injuring at least 15 people, three of them critically.
Separately, two rebels and a soldier were killed in the northwestern Sopore area on Friday, authorities said.
Meanwhile, security guards posted at the residence of Farooq Abdullah, India's member of parliament and Kashmir's former top elected official, shot and killed a young man after he allegedly forced his entry into the residence on Saturday, top police officer S.P. Vaid said.
Vaid said the man traveling in a car was unarmed and gatecrashed into the residence in southern Jammu city. He scuffled with security guards before he was shot to death.
Abdullah was not at the residence.
The slain man's family rejected the police version of the incident, saying that the residence was not on his route to the gym where he had gone in the morning. They sought an independent probe. There was no independent account of the shooting.
Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it 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. 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.
Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989. 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.