Hundreds of angry residents clashed with government forces on Thursday in the main city of Indian-administered Kashmir after three suspected rebels and a woman were killed in a gunfight, police and witnesses said.
Counterinsurgency police and federal paramilitary forces surrounded the Batamaloo neighbourhood of Srinagar after midnight following a tip-off that rebel fighters were hiding in a house, triggering an exchange of fire.
Three suspected rebels, believed to be locals, were killed in the gun battle that lasted several hours, police announced on Twitter.
“One young woman also died during the encounter,” a police officer told the AFP news agency.
“The woman was caught in the crossfire. Her death is unfortunate,” Director General of Police Dilbagh Singh told reporters.
A paramilitary trooper was also injured during the firefight, Singh said.
As news of the deaths spread, hundreds of residents took to the streets, throwing stones at government forces who fired tear gas and metal pellets.
The crowd shouted slogans, such as “Long live Pakistan” and “We want freedom”, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.
No injuries were immediately reported from the clashes.
Armed encounters between rebels and government forces are frequent in the territory, but rare in the regional capital.
The last such firefight occurred in June in which three local rebels were killed and 15 houses destroyed in the heart of Srinagar.
Thursday’s deaths came a day after similar protests in northeastern Kashmiri town Sopore, where Irfan Ahmed Dar, 26, was found dead hours after he was detained by police.
Dar’s family allege police tortured and killed him, later dumping his body in an open area.
Police however claim Dar was an overground associate of anti-India rebels and escaped from police custody before he was found dead.
Dar’s body was not released to his family, and officers buried him in a graveyard reserved for slain rebels.
At least 192 rebels, 73 government forces personnel and 47 civilians have been killed in armed violence this year across the disputed territory also claimed by Pakistan which administers a part of it.
India and Pakistan claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel cause that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.
The two countries have exchanged small arms fire and mortar shells almost daily for months across their disputed border in Kashmir, leading to the death of soldiers and civilians on both sides.
On Wednesday, an Indian soldier was killed during cross-border firing in the south.
Anxiety and anger have deepened in the restive Himalayan region since August 2019 when New Delhi revoked its semi-autonomous status and brought it under direct federal rule.