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Violent protests erupt in Kashmir after Indian forces kill nine rebel fighters

India has escalated its counterinsurgency operations in occupied Kashmir amid a nationwide coronavirus lockdown [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 June, 2020

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Protesters in Shopian chanted slogans calling for an end to Indian rule and threw stones at security forces, who responded by firing shotgun pellets and tear gas.
Indian soldiers killed at least nine rebel fighters in occupied Kashmir over a 24-hour period beginning on Sunday, sparking violent protests in the disputed region.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched to Shopian district's Reban area, some 70km (43 miles) south of the capital, Srinagar.

It was the site where Indian soldiers and counter-insurgency police had earlier killed five rebel fighters after receiving a tip-off.

Protesters chanted slogans calling for an end to Indian rule and threw stones at security forces, who responded by firing shotgun pellets and tear gas, TRT reported. No casualties have been reported in the clashes.

Four rebels were also killed in Pinjora, another area of Shopian, after the Indian Army's 55 Rashtriya Rifles and 183 Battalion of paramilitary launched a cordon and search operation in the location, Andalou Agency report.

Three commanders were among the nine fighters killed in both gunfights, which resulted in the wounding of three Indian soldiers.

"Nine militants of the Hizbul Mujahideen outfit, including its three top commanders, have been neutralised in less than 24 hours," state police chief Dilbagh Singh told reporters on Monday.

In the past two weeks, a total of 22 rebel fighters have been killed, including six top commanders, the chief added.

India has escalated its counter-insurgency operations across Kashmir in recent months amid a nationwide coronavirus lockdown.

Read more: Indian forces kill top Kashmir rebel commander

According to figures gathered by the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a human rights group, at least 80 rebels and 25 armed personnel have been killed in the region this year.

In April, more than two dozen rebels and around a dozen Indian soldiers have been killed, the most in any month since August 2019, when India revoked the region's semi-autonomous status and statehood and imposed direct federal rule.  

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, but both countries claim control over the region in its entirety.

Most residents support the rebels' goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training the anti-India rebels, a charge Islamabad strongly denies. It says it only offers moral and diplomatic support to those who oppose Indian rule.

Conflict in the region has claimed the lives of thousands since 1989, mostly civilians, according to several human rights organisations.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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