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Mourners clash with police at rebel funeral in Indian Kashmir

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At least a dozen protesters suffered injuries in Indian-administered Kashmir Wednesday as security forces fired teargas and pellets at angry mourners who defied a curfew to hold a funeral for a slain rebel, witnesses and police said.

Authorities had imposed a curfew in parts of the disputed territory after three rebels were killed in a firefight with government forces overnight.

But hundreds of mourners defied the order to organise funerals for the slain rebels, sparking violent clashes with police at one of the ceremonies held in the main city of Srinagar, witnesses said.

The mourners shouted slogans such as “Go India, go back” and “We want freedom” and pelted stones at police who fired teargas and pellets.

“At least a dozen protesters were injured with pellets in their heads and limbs,” a police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Authorities had erected checkpoints and blockades along main roads in Srinagar to prevent residents from holding protests or attending funerals for the rebels who were killed in a shootout south of the city.

The overnight firefight came amid high tension after gunmen shot dead seven Hindu pilgrims and injured 19 others in the disputed Himalayan region on Tuesday.

Soldiers and counterinsurgency police cordoned off a neighbourhood in Redbugh village late Tuesday after learning about the presence of armed rebels in a house, a police officer said.

“After the night-long standoff, all three militants were killed when they tried to break the cordon,” the officer said.

There is no suggestion the shootout was linked with the attack on a bus shuttling Hindus on an annual pilgrimage to a Himalayan cave revered as the abode of the god Shiva.

Some officials have blamed Lashkar-e-Taiba, a pro-Pakistan militant group, for the attack but it has denied any role.

Jitendra Singh, minister of state in the Prime Minister’s Office, said police and security forces were still carrying out investigations.

“No one should jump to any conclusion on the attack. Let us wait for the definite inferences and inputs,” he told reporters in Srinagar.

Separately on Wednesday, army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia told AFP two soldiers were killed in cross-border firing by Pakistani troops in Kupwara district, near the de-facto border that divides the Himalayan region between the two countries, without providing further details.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from British colonial rule in 1947 but both claim the former kingdom in its entirety.

Rebel groups, including Lashkar-e-Taiba, have fought for decades roughly 500,000 Indian soldiers deployed in the disputed territory, demanding independence or a merger of the region with Pakistan.

The fighting has left tens of thousands, mostly civilians, dead.

Armed encounters between rebels and government forces have become more frequent since the killing of a hugely popular militant leader last July, which prompted dozens of local youth to join the rebel ranks.


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