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SRINAGAR, India – Thousands participated in the funeral of two young men and a teenage girl in disputed Kashmir on Saturday, hours after police say they were killed when government forces fired at anti-India protesters.
Police said in a statement that some residents threw stones at an Indian army patrol as it passed through southern Redwani area.
The statement said the "army tried to disperse the miscreants and in the process five individuals sustained injuries."
Residents said soldiers fired live ammunition, shotgun pellets and tear gas to quell the protests, wounding several people.
Medics said three injured died at a hospital.
Locals said the government forces came to a cluster of villages in the area and accused the soldiers of vandalizing and harassing villagers, which led to anti-India protests and clashes.
The news of the deaths brought more residents to the streets seeking the end of Indian rule over Kashmir and the clashes intensified as residents from neighboring villages joined the protesters, police said.
Thousands of people offered funeral prayers for the slain civilians amid anti-India slogans. Prayers were held several times to accommodate the large number of people arriving from different places in the area. At the funeral of the three, some rebels fighting against Indian rule also showed up and fired to honor them.
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 India's counterinsurgency operations in the region.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep in Kashmir, a Himalayan territory divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both in its entirety. In recent years, the Indian-controlled portion has seen renewed rebel attacks and repeated public protests against Indian rule.
Rebels have been fighting Indian control since 1989, demanding that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
India has accused Pakistan of arming and training the rebels, a charge Pakistan denies.
Most Kashmiris support the rebels' cause while also participating in civilian street protests against Indian control. Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.