Protests erupted in southern Kashmir after the killing of five civilians and five rebels – including a top commander – in a gun battle with Indian security forces.
State Police Chief Shesh Paul Vaid told Al Jazeera security forces confronted rebels in a house on Sunday in Zanipora Badigam village in Shopian district, 60km from the main city of Srinagar, after receiving intelligence about their presence.
“The gunfight is over and all the five terrorists have been killed. We made repeated appeals to them to surrender, but they did not,” Vaid said.
According to Indian officials, rebel commander Saddam Padder, who belonged to the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen organisation, was among the dead.
After news spread of fighters being pinned down in a house, hundreds of residents marched towards the gun battle to help the rebels escape, triggering violence between civilians and Indian security forces. Some civilians pelted security officers with stones, said Vaid.
“We heard the firing since 3am. We knew something had happened because the noise of guns has become routine now. What follows is more killings and bloodshed,” said Shahid Ahmad, 29, a resident of Shopian.
“It is a war going on here. People are being killed every day.”
Dr Saleem Tak, superintendent of Shri Maharaja Hari Singh hospital, told Al Jazeera one of the dead civilians suffered a bullet wound to the head.
On Saturday, three rebels were killed in a firefight with security forces in Srinagar during a six-hour confrontation, including a top commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba group.
The killings triggered stone-throwing by civilians against Indian security forces. A protester was crushed to death under an army vehicle and video of the incident surged on social media.
To protest against the killings, a complete shutdown was being observed in the region on Sunday.
In Kasmir’s southern districts, which have become hotbeds of violent confrontation between rebels and security forces, clashes often end with the killing of civilians who flock to the scene in support of the separatist fighters.
More than 270 rebels have been killed in intensified operations led by the Indian army since last year, officials say.
Tens of thousands of people have died in the decades-old conflict in the Himalayan region, over which South Asian rivals India and Pakistan have fought three wars. Both countries claim divided Kashmir in its entirety.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep among Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population after decades of Indian rule.