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Anti-India demonstration in Kashmir turns violent

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An Indian policeman uses a slingshot to hurl stones towards Kashmiri demonstrators during a protest in Srinagar February 19, 2016. (AP images)

Anti-India protesters have staged demonstrations in several neighborhoods in Indian-administered Kashmir's saffron-rich Pampore area where militants have been fighting with government forces.

Witnesses and officials said on Sunday clashes broke out as youths chanting "Go India, go back" and "We want freedom" ignored police warnings to stay away from the site of the gun battle and hurled rocks at police and paramilitary soldiers.

Government troops fired tear gas and pellet guns to disperse the protesters. At least three protesters were hospitalized with wounds from pellet guns, police said.

Elsewhere, four soldiers and one civilian have died as a small group of militants believed to be anti-India rebels exchanged fire with government forces for the second straight day on the southern outskirts of Indian-controlled Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar.

The rebels, numbering two to three, fired guns and grenades early Sunday as Indian commandos tried to storm the government building where they have been hiding since Saturday, said paramilitary spokesman Bhavesh Chaudhary on Sunday.

More than a dozen paramilitary troops have also been reportedly wounded in the standoff.

The latest shootings left one Special Forces officer and a soldier belonging to the same force dead.

Four paramilitary soldiers were also injured on Sunday.

Indian army soldiers take positions against militants on the outskirts of Srinagar on February 21, 2016. (AFP PHOTO)

The standoff started on Saturday when the militants ambushed a convoy of Indian paramilitary soldiers before taking shelter in a nearby government building.

The militants allowed the civilians working at the 5-storey training institute to leave the building without any harm.

“Two CRPF personnel died in the initial assault on the convoy and ten others were injured,” said Javaid Gillani, inspector general of police for the region, adding that the militants took refuge in the government building after launching the attack.

Gillani said that more than 110 civilian government employees were evacuated from the building.

Anti-India sentiment runs deep in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir which has been the scene of violent clashes in recent years. Indian army soldiers are in continuous clashes in the restive region with freedom fighters seeking independence from New Delhi.

Kashmir lies at the heart of a bitter territorial dispute between India and Pakistan since the neighboring countries became independent in 1947.

New Delhi and Islamabad both claim the region in full, but rule parts of it. The two rivals have fought three wars, two of them over the disputed region.

Indian military personnel stand near a building taken over by suspected militants during clashes in the Sempora area of Pampore, some 15 kms south of Srinagar on February 20, 2016.(AFP PHOTO)

India and Pakistan agreed to a ceasefire in Kashmir on November 26, 2003, and launched a peace process the following year. Since then, there have been sporadic clashes, with the two sides trading accusations of violating the ceasefire along their de facto border dividing the disputed region.

More than 68,000 people have been killed in the armed uprising and ensuing Indian military crackdown.

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