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Indian forces shoot dead two people in Kashmir

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)
Indian soldiers take part in a search operation after a gun battle between suspected militants and government forces in Khanmoh district near Srinagar, Kashmir, March 16, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

At least two people have been killed in gunfight with Indian forces in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Police said in a statement on Friday that the two tried to grab a rifle from an officer guarding a local leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) overnight in Kashmir. The guard was injured.

The two were killed by counterinsurgency police and soldiers in an exchange of fire that erupted after they were trapped in a home in Khanmoh district on the outskirts of the main city of Srinagar while they were trying to escape. They were from nearby Pulwama district, where officials ordered the closure of schools and colleges on Friday in an attempt to stop student demonstrations.

Mourners carry the body of a slain fighter in Awantipora, Pulwama district, near Srinagar, Kashmir, March 16, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Protests and clashes broke out separately in another village north of Srinagar after authorities closed it on a tip that a couple of fighters were hiding there. A brief gun battle reportedly ensued. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

Tensions are high in the Indian-controlled region, where the Muslim-majority population stages regular protests against the Indian rule and demands autonomy from New Delhi.

India regularly accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants and allowing them across the restive frontier in an attempt to launch attacks on Indian forces. Pakistan strongly denies the allegation.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan but claimed in full by both since the two were partitioned and gained independence from Britain in 1947. The two countries have fought three wars over the disputed territory. Despite a ceasefire agreement that was reached in November 2003, sporadic skirmishes continue in Kashmir.

New Delhi has deployed some 500,000 soldiers to the disputed region to further boost the security of the borderline and enforce a crackdown on pro-independence demonstrations in its share of Kashmir, where anti-India sentiments are high.

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