Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – Five people, including three rebels, a civilian and one Indian army personnel, have been killed in a pre-dawn gunfight in Dalipora village of Pulwama in the southern part of Indian-administered Kashmir.
Chandan Kohli, a senior superintendent of police from Pulwama, told Al Jazeera that the gunfight started in the early hours of Thursday after a search operation was launched.
“In the gunfight, three Jaish-e-Muhammad members and one army personnel were killed,” said Kohli before adding that “one civilian also died in the crossfire while they were being evacuated from the target house”.
The civilian was identified as Rayees Ahmad Dar, in his early 20s, who suffered injuries to his chest and neck.
“He was brought dead to the hospital. His brother also suffered a bullet injury in his leg and is being treated in the hospital,” Dr Abdul Rasheed Para, the superintendent of Pulwama district hospital, told Al Jazeera.
Kohli said that two of the fighters were local and one of them was a foreigner “who was wanted in many cases”.
“He was one of the top commanders of the outfit present in the region,” the official said, adding that the gun battle lasted five hours.
After news of the operation spread in the volatile villages of southern Kashmir, hundreds of people came out on the roads raising anti-India slogans. The protests lead to stone-throwing clashes between youth and the forces.
“Even in the holy month of Ramadan, they can’t let the people live peacefully. We are forced to carry the coffins of our children,” said Fayaz Ahmad Mir, a Pulwama resident.
Authorities suspended internet services in the district and imposed a curfew in the adjacent villages.
Security forces in the region have launched a crackdown on the rebels following a suicide attack on a convoy of Indian forces on the south Kashmir national highway in February where 42 paramilitary troopers were killed.
Indian authorities have taken several measures to tighten the spaces of dissent in the region. They banned two top separatist outfits, Jamaat-e-Islami and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), and jailed hundreds of their leaders.
The Indian government has also warned students from the disputed territory against pursuing their studies in colleges in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, saying the Indian government does not recognise those degrees.