Anti-India clashes, gunbattle erupt in Kashmir's main city

October 16, 2018 - 9:21 pm

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Anti-India protests and clashes erupted in the main city of disputed Kashmir on Wednesday shortly after a gunbattle raged between militants and government forces.

The gunbattle began early Wednesday after troops cordoned off a neighborhood in Srinagar on a tip that some rebels were present in a civilian home, police said. The exchange of gunfire lasted for about half an hour, police said but refused to give any information about casualties on either side.

Residents said they also heard loud explosions during the fighting.

As the news of the fighting spread, anti-India protests and clashes erupted in several places in downtown Srinagar. Demonstrators tried to reach the site of the standoff and threw stones at police and paramilitary soldiers in solidarity with rebels.

Government forces fired tear gas to stop the protesters. There were no reports of injuries.

Authorities limited communications, including internet on mobile phones, as is routine during such fighting to make organizing anti-India protests difficult.

Clashes between government troops and residents had occurred during the day Tuesday during the last phase of local council elections that had low turnout in Muslim-dominated areas. Separatists and armed rebel groups had called for a boycott, viewing the polls as an illegitimate exercise under military occupation.

India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety.

Most Kashmiris support rebel demands 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 the 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.

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