Hundreds protest in Srinagar in India-administered Kashmir after a police shootout kills three suspected rebels and a 45-year-old woman.

Kashmiri protesters throw stones at Indian forces as they attempt to march on the streets in solidarity with slain fighters, in Srinagar, India-administered Kashmir, September 17, 2020.
Kashmiri protesters throw stones at Indian forces as they attempt to march on the streets in solidarity with slain fighters, in Srinagar, India-administered Kashmir, September 17, 2020. (AP)

Hundreds of angry residents have clashed with Indian troops and police in the main city of India-administered Kashmir after a firefight left three suspected rebels and a woman dead, police and witnesses said.

The gunfight erupted shortly after scores of counterinsurgency police and troops launched an operation based on a tip about the presence of rebels in a Srinagar neighbourhood, Pankaj Singh, an Indian paramilitary spokesman, said.

Three suspected rebels, believed to be locals, were killed in the firefight in Batamaloo area that lasted several hours, police announced on Twitter.

"One young woman also died during the encounter," a police officer told 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.

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'We want freedom'

As the fighting raged, many residents marched near the site in solidarity with the rebels and chanted slogans seeking an end to Indian rule over the region. 

Indian police and paramilitaries fired shotgun pellets and tear gas at the stone-throwing protesters.

The crowd shouted slogans, such as "Long live Pakistan" and "We want freedom," according to an AFP photographer at the scene.

No casualties were immediately reported in the clashes.

Armed encounters between rebels and Indian forces are frequent in the territory but rare in the capital city.

The last such firefight occurred in June and left three local rebels dead and 15 houses destroyed in the heart of Srinagar.

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Young man dies in police custody

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 says police tortured and killed him, later dumping his body in an open area.

Police 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 authorities buried him in a graveyard reserved for slain rebels.

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Deadly year

At least 192 rebels, 73 Indian forces personnel and 47 civilians have been killed in armed violence this year across the disputed territory also claimed by Pakistan which administers another part of it.

India and Pakistan have exchanged small arms fire and mortar shells almost daily for months across their disputed border in Kashmir, leading to the deaths of soldiers and civilians on both sides.

Both India and Pakistan claim the divided territory of Kashmir in its entirety. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal that the territory be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country in an UN-backed plebiscite.

Armed rebels have fought Indian rule since 1989, which New Delhi calls Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris call it a legitimate freedom struggle.

Anxiety and anger has deepened in the restive Himalayan region since August last year when New Delhi revoked its semi-autonomous status and brought it under direct federal rule.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies