Two Indian soldiers and two fighters were killed in clashes in Indian-administered Kashmir, where tensions are high following the killing of a prominent leader of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group.
Early on Tuesday, Indian troops ambushed the two fighters in Kulgam, south of the main city of Srinagar.
“It was a deliberate and swift operation,” an army officer told the AFP news agency.
In a separate incident, two Indian troops were killed and another was injured in a shootout with rebels in Shopian district, the officer said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
“Three soldiers were evacuated by air but two of them died before reaching a military hospital,” a police officer said.
The violence comes just days after Indian forces killed top commander Abu Dujana, who headed LeT in Kashmir.
His death led to protests and violent clashes, in which at least two civilians – including a teenage student – were killed.
Akeel Ahmed Bhat, 17, died in hospital on Wednesday, a day after he was hit by government forces during a protest decrying the killing of Abu Dujana.
“Akeel is just another civilian victim of the excessive force against demonstrators,” Parvez Imroz, a Kashmiri activist, told Al Jazeera.
“However, it’s the same pattern for government troops, they have been using disproportionate force against the protesters for a long time,” he added.
The government imposed a curfew on parts of Srinagar in anticipation of further protests against Indian rule.
“The army and police have been very brutal against demonstrators and beaten them up harshly. They also raided their houses and even beat up their women and children,” Imroz said.
Indian authorities have also suspended mobile internet in Kashmir.
“The use of social media is very frequent among Kashmiri youth. This reaction is not surprising for us. The troops want to stop young people coming together for demonstrations by suspending the mobile network,” Imroz added.
Kashmir is divided between two nuclear-armed rivals, India and Pakistan where each administer part of it, but both claim the Himalayan territory in its entirety.
Rebel groups have been fighting since 1989 for the Indian-administered portion to become independent.
Nearly 70,000 people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.
India maintains roughly 500,000 soldiers in the territory.
Anti-India sentiment runs deep among Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population and most support the rebels’ cause against Indian rule despite a decades-long military crackdown to fight the armed rebellion.
India accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebels, an allegation Pakistan denies.
Officials claim that a large number of young people have joined the separatist ranks since last July, and say the number is growing after the killing of LeT group’s leader.
Additional reporting by Yigit Mahmut.
Source: Al Jazeera News