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Iran Press TV

Violent anti-India protests erupt in Kashmir after rebel leader killed

Iran Press TV

Sat May 27, 2017 1:53PM

Violent protests have erupted in Indian-controlled Kashmir after Indian troops allegedly killed a top leader of the pro-independence Hizb-ul-Mujahideen group.

According to police chief Shesh Pal Vaid, Sabzar Ahmad Bhat was killed in a gun battle with Indian troops in Saimoh village in Tral area, some 40 kilometers south of Kashmir's capital, Srinagar, in the early hours of Saturday.

The operation was carried out, following an intelligence tip-off, on Bhat's hideout in the village, the police official said, adding that one of Bhat's fighters had also been killed in the overnight gun battle, which ended later in the day.

Police cordoned off the fighting site but faced hundreds of stone-throwing protesters who chanted anti-India slogans, trying to allegedly help possible trapped fighters escape from the area.

Witnesses said a young man lost his life and several other people sustained injuries after government troops opened fire on demonstrators near the gun battle site. Vaid claimed that the young man had been killed by crossfire.

Reports say that shops and business have been closed and thousands of demonstrators are heading toward the village.

Similar clashes between government forces and angry demonstrators were also reported to have been erupted in different places across the Kashmir Valley, with police and paramilitary troops firing shotgun pellets and tear gas canisters to disperse protesters who were growing in number.

Bhat, whose killing can be considered a major triumph for India, had succeeded Burhan Wani, who was also killed by Indian troops in July last year. Wani's death sparked a large wave of violent protests across the region. More than 90 people lost their lives and over 12,000 were wounded in the ensuing crackdown.

Muslim-majority Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both since the two split up and gained independence from Britain in 1947. The two countries have fought three wars over the disputed territory. They, however, reached an agreement to maintain a ceasefire in Kashmir in November 2003.

Since then, there have been sporadic clashes, with the two sides trading accusations of violating the ceasefire, but no major armed conflict between the two countries.

Pakistan-India relations have also been strained in the past several months, with New Delhi blaming Islamabad for a raid on an army base in Indian-controlled Kashmir last September, which killed 19 soldiers. The Indian army blamed Pakistan-based militants for the assault. Islamabad, however, denies any role in the attack.

In recent months, the use of pellet guns by Indian forces in Kashmir has drawn widespread criticism as the weapons have caused permanent disabilities among victims. The government crackdown has failed to halt the protests against Indian rule in Kashmir.

Pro-independence leaders blame India for denying the people of Kashmir the right to self-determination promised to them by the international community through numerous UN Security Council resolutions.

India has already deployed about 500,000 soldiers in its portion of the disputed region, where various groups have for decades been fighting for independence or a merger with Pakistan.

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