Residents say army fired indiscriminately at protesters, as police claim soldiers were being pelted with rocks.
Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – Two Indian Air Force commandos and two separatists have been killed in a gun battle in Bandipora district of Indian-administered Kashmir, officials said.
“The two commandos succumbed to their injuries,” Director General of the State Police Shesh Paul Vaid told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.
He added that two “terrorists” belonging to Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group have also been killed in the gunfight in Hajin village in northern Kashmir’s Bandipora, 30km away from the region’s main city of Srinagar.
“One of the terrorists is local, while the other is Pakistani national,” the official said.
The commandos were on a special training with the Indian army, officials said.
The operation started when the army cordoned off Hajin area after a specific input about the presence of separatist fighters, officials said.
“The encounter started during the darkness in early morning hours at 4am and continued for four hours,” Inspector General of Police, Jammu and Kashmir, Muneer Ahmed Khan told Al Jazeera.
Two fighters managed to escape from the spot, he said.
“The internet services have been suspended in Bandipora district as a precautionary measure to prevent the law and order problems,” Khan said.
The attack comes a day after at least three separatists and an Indian soldier were killed in three separate battles in southern Kashmir.
Thousands on Tuesday participated in funerals for the three fighters, chanting slogans including “We want freedom” and “Go India, go back”.
The villagers also chanted slogans eulogising separatists and hailing Pakistan, which controls a part of the disputed Himalayan territory. Nuclear rivals India and Pakistan want Kashmir in its entirety.
Earlier on Monday, police said troops killed a top rebel commander in the northwestern Handwara area. A police statement described the slain rebel as chief of operations of the Jaish-e-Mohammad armed group.
Last week, three separatists and an Indian paramilitary personnel were killed in an attack, when fighters stormed an army camp outside the airport in Srinagar.
In August, suicide attackers managed to enter the heavily guarded police camp in south Kashmir’s Pulwama district and killed at least eight security personnel.
Last year, armed separatists had stormed the army base near the border town of Uri in which 18 soldiers were killed.
The renewed attacks have caused turbulence in the fraught relations between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in an armed rebellion and the ensuing Indian military crackdown since the late 1980s. India maintains roughly half a million soldiers in the disputed territory.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep among Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population, a majority of whom either want the Indian-administered portion to become independent or merge with Pakistan.
New Delhi has accused Pakistan of arming and training the separatists, which Islamabad denies.
Separatist groups have largely been suppressed by Indian forces in recent years and public opposition to Indian rule is now principally expressed through street protests.