By Zahid Rafiq
SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir, India (AA): Indian security forces allegedly opened fire on unarmed civilian protesters, killing three of them and wounding over a dozen others in central Jammu and Kashmir Tuesday, according to police.
Protesters came under fire when they were allegedly throwing stones at Indian security forces involved in a gunbattle with militants who were trapped inside a house in Chadoora area. Security forces claim the protesters were trying to create an opportunity for the militants to escape.
Police spokesman Manoj Pandita confirmed to Anadolu Agency the killing of three civilians, adding the gunbattle that began on Tuesday morning ended with the death of a local militant.
A hospital source identified the civilian victims as 20-year-old Zahid Rashid, 18-year-old Aamir Fayaz and another teenager Ishfaq Ahmad who died after being shot several times.
As news of the civilian deaths spread, more people took to the streets in Chadoora and clashes between people and Indian forces intensified.
The pro-independence resistance leadership of Kashmir has called for a strike on Wednesday in protest against the killings.
The disputed region has seen reinvigorated pro-independence protests after the killing of a popular militant commander in July last year. At least 100 civilians were killed in the subsequent crackdown by Indian authorities, according to officials.
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
The two countries have fought three wars – in 1948, 1965 and 1971 – since they were partitioned in 1947, two of which were fought over Kashmir.
Kashmiri resistance groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan. More than 70,000 people have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989. India maintains more than half a million troops in the disputed region.
[Photo: Indian paramilitary troops retaliate during clashes with protesters in central Kashmir’s Chadoora some 20 kilometers from Srinagar the summer capital of Indian controlled Kashmir on March 28, 2017. Photographer: Muhabiri Faisal Khan/AA]