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Gunfight, clashes kill seven people in Indian-controlled Kashmir

An Indian army vehicle patrols near the site of a gun battle between Indian government forces and gunmen in Kulgam in southern Kashmir on April 11, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

A gun battle in Indian-controlled Kashmir and ensuing anti-India protests have left at least seven people dead, including three civilians.

Police said Indian troops killed three gunmen and a civilian allegedly being used as a human shield in Kulgam district in southern Kashmir on Wednesday.

Hundreds of people staged a rally in the district, south of the main city of Srinagar, chanting anti-India slogans and hurling stones at government forces who fired live rounds, pellets and tear gas in return.

"Two civilians died when they came close to the encounter site," said local police chief Shesh Paul Vaid.

Vaid noted that a soldier was taken to a military hospital and later succumbed to injuries he suffered during the fighting.

On Wednesday, students staged an anti-India protest at Srinagar's largest university, while the city’s shops were closed.

Earlier this month, at least 20 people, including four civilians, lost their lives in a number of fierce gun battles between Indian security forces and suspected separatist militants in the restive Himalayan region.

Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from Britain in 1947. The disputed region is claimed in full by both sides, who often accuse each other of violating a 2003 ceasefire agreement.

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.

Armed battles between Indian forces and pro-independence militants over the years have killed nearly 70,000 people, mostly civilians.

Kashmir’s mostly Muslim population has been demanding that the region be given independence or be merged with Pakistan.

Last year was the deadliest of the current decade in the disputed Kashmir region, with more than 200 militants killed in a counter-insurgency offensive dubbed “Operation All Out.”

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