Thousands of protesters clashed with police in Jammu and Kashmir yesterday after two militants were killed in a gun battle with government forces, the army and witnesses said.
Protesters torched a police armoured vehicle as masked militants fired automatic rifles into the air in honour of the dead men, a police officer at the scene said on condition of anonymity.
The gun battle broke out early yesterday morning in Shopian, 45km south of the main city of Srinagar.
“The militants fired on a patrol party. In retaliation both were eliminated,” army spokesman, Colonel N N Joshi said.
The two militants were members of Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest rebel group operating in Kashmir.
“The slain militants have been identified as Wasim Malla and Nasir Pandit,” a police officer said.
“Nasir was a former police constable who had decamped with his service rifle and later joined the militant ranks. He belonged to Karimabad village of Pulwama district,” he added.
After the shootout, thousands of angry villagers came out onto the streets, throwing stones at police and chanting slogans in support of the rebels.
Police fired tear gas at the protesters but later withdrew to avoid an escalation.
Authorities in Kashmir say there has been a rise in violent protests over the deaths of local militants.
Police and the army have issued public warnings asking residents within a 2km-radius of a gun battle to stay indoors, but the request is usually ignored.
Hizbul Mujahideen is one of several rebel groups fighting an estimated half a million government forces deployed in the state.
Tens of thousands have died in the fighting, mostly civilians, since the insurgency broke out in 1989.
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