Thirteen people have died, including nine civilians, in a gunfight between militants and soldiers in India’s Jammu and Kashmir state and the clashes that followed, police said on Saturday.
The gunfight took place in the early morning in Sirnoo village in Pulwama district as a joint team of the army and paramilitary personnel searched for militants after receiving “credible intelligence,” police sources said.
One soldier and three militants died in the ensuing gunfight. Two other soldiers were seriously injured.
Local youths then tried to march to the site of the gunbattle, leading to clashes with security forces and police. Police tried to disperse them using teargas, and live fire.
At least nine civilians died and 10 people were injured, police said. Eyewitnesses quoted by local media said more than 40 people were injured.
News channel NDTV quoted eyewitnesses as saying the local youths killed had bullet injuries in their heads and chests. Several injured people were being treated for pellet injuries in hospitals in south Kashmir and state capital Srinagar.
Over 90 civilians have been killed in militancy-related incidents between January and end-November as security forces have increased efforts to weed out militants, according to government data.
At least 60 have been killed in clashes near sites of gunfights between security forces and militants.
A deep anti-India sentiment runs through the Kashmir Valley which has seen a deadly secessionist movement since the 1980s. More than 40,000 people have died in the unrest.
The Muslim-majority Kashmir region is disputed territory between India and Pakistan. India accuses Pakistan of supporting the rebels but Islamabad denies the charge and calls them freedom fighters.
Internet services in Pulwama district were suspended Saturday and train services in the region stopped.
Protests broke out in major towns across the Kashmir Valley as news of the deaths in the Pulwama clashes spread.
“#PulwamaMassacre, Bullets and pellets rain! As Govt of India has decided to kill Kashmiri’s through its #ArmedForces who control us,” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the Hurriyat Conference forum of separatist organizations, said in a Twitter post.
“There is no explanation for this excessive use of force, none what so ever. This is a massacre & that’s the only way to describe it,” former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said in a Twitter post.
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