By Associated Press - Monday, March 22, 2021

SRINAGAR, India (AP) - Authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Monday said four suspected rebels were killed by government forces during an overnight raid on a village in which a soldier was also wounded.

Scores of counterinsurgency police, army and paramilitary forces raided a village on the outskirts of the southern Shopian town late Sunday, following a tip about the presence of militants there, said Inspector-General Vijay Kumar. He said the militants were killed in a gunfight after refusing to surrender, and that a rifle and four pistols were recovered from the scene.

Residents said troops burnt a civilian home where the four rebels were holed up, a common tactic employed by Indian troops in Kashmir.

The highly militarized Himalayan region is divided between India and Pakistan, and claimed by both in its entirety. New Delhi describes the Kashmir militancy as Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle.

Last week, police and local residents said two militants were killed amid several days of counterinsurgency operations by Indian troops in the Shopian area.

The operations sparked anti-India protests by local villagers, who threw stones at government forces in an attempt to help the trapped rebels escape the security cordon. At least five civilians were injured during the clashes, some when shotgun pellets fired by troops hit their eyes. Around six homes in the area were also destroyed during the counterinsurgency operation.

Rebels in Indian-controlled Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.

In 2019, New Delhi stripped the region’s semi-autonomous status and imposed a slew of administrative changes through new laws.

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