Tuesday, July 17, 2018 | 8:17 AM

3 militants, 2 Indian soldiers killed in south Kashmir fighting: police

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Two Indian soldiers and three pro-freedom fighters have been killed in a fierce gun battle in south Kashmir, police said sunday.

The fighting erupted Saturday after Indian troops raided southern Awneera village, 50km south of the main city of Srinagar, on a tip that at least seven militants fighting New Delhi's rule over Kashmir were hiding there, said top police officer S.P. Vaid.

He said militants lobbed hand grenades and fired automatic rifles from two civilian homes and an apple orchard, killing two soldiers. At least three other soldiers were wounded.

Police said the firing stopped late in the night but resumed early Sunday, when three militants were killed. Vaid said they were affiliated with the Hizbul Mujahideen group.

Residents said a civilian home was destroyed after troops blasted it with explosives.

As news of the fighters' deaths spread, hundreds of residents from neighbouring villages took to the streets in protest, throwing stones at soldiers and chanting slogans against Indian rule.

About a dozen villagers were injured.

"People tried to march towards the site of the gunfight yesterday but there was a strong cordon," said 29-year-old Irshad Ahmed.

Ahmed, a resident of the village of Awneera, said: "Today when the encounter ended, clashes [between police and protesters] started and many people suffered bullet and pellet injuries.

"People from all the adjoining villages came to protest the (killings) because they are all from the same district. How long can we bear this bloodshed, they are killing our brothers."

Those wounded in the clashes were taken to a nearby hospital.

In recent years, Kashmiris, mainly youths, have displayed open solidarity with anti-India fighters and sought to protect them by engaging troops in street clashes during military operations against the militants. The anti-India protests and clashes have persisted despite the Indian army chief warning recently that tough action would be taken against stone throwers during counterinsurgency operations.

In a separate incident early on Sunday, fighters opened fire on an Indian army convoy in the northern area of Hajin and wounded two police officers and a soldier, said Khan.

Officials say at least 130 fighters and 39 soldiers have died in clashes so far this year after the Indian army launched a major operation against armed groups in the southern part of the region.