SRINAGAR: Indian soldiers Tuesday killed two suspected militants in occupied Kashmir after police and troops battled scores of stone-throwing residents who were trying to help the rebels escape, police said.
The soldiers came under fire after they surrounded Ratnipora village, 35 kilometres (21 miles) south of the main city of Srinagar, overnight Monday following a tip-off that militants were in the area.
Hundreds of villagers poured onto the streets when the gunbattle resumed at first light, throwing rocks at police and chanting “We want freedom!” a police officer said on condition of anonymity.
Officers fired tear gas and live rounds into the air to disperse the crowds before soldiers finally gunned down the militants in paddy fields, the officer said.
“Two terrorists were killed, and the encounter has ended. Both are locals,” said Javaid Gillani, inspector general of police for the region, adding that a policeman was injured.
“There was a lot of stone pelting in the area,” Gillani told AFP.
Government forces have been on heightened alert in the southern Kashmir valley, where police say sizeable and locally trained armed groups have been operating for months.
In July a group of 11 armed militants wearing army fatigues posed for photos and a video which were posted on Facebook.
Since 1989 several rebel groups have been fighting hundreds of thousands of Indian forces deployed in the region. They seek either independence or a merger of the disputed territory with Pakistan.
The fighting has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since the South Asian rivals gained independence from Britain in 1947. Both claim the Himalayan territory in full.
Violence in the region has steadily declined since the early 2000s, but battles between government forces and rebels are still frequent.